Data Center Water Treatment

If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 (Making Your Data Center Water Positive) and Part II (Three Tips for Data Centers) for the first two in our series of collaboration with Data Center Frontier to bring you Voices of the Industry.

For Part III, read the full excerpt here or the original post on Data Center Frontier.

Future Readiness Must Include Data Center Asset Preservation

In this edition of Voices of the Industry, Cem Candir, CEO of Chemstar WATER, discusses how a proactive approach to cooling system maintenance can maximize the useful life of your data center equipment. 

Cem Candir President and CEO of Chemstar WATER
Cem Candir, CEO of Chemstar WATER

In a previous article, we discussed the water footprint of data centers and how large “hyperscale” campuses can manage water supply and wastewater discharge. We also offered proactive tips for data center operators to reduce their water footprint cost-effectively.

Operators worldwide are now testing various cooling innovations to potentially substitute water as the primary medium to cool the air around server racks. Microsoft’s pilot trial of immersive cooling in a production environment, where server racks are dipped into a pool of dielectric fluid, recently made headlines. Time will tell if this approach is practical for the data center operators, especially the facility managers. To ensure feasibility, operators must also display a substantial cost reduction on the fluid itself.

Zutacore is offering an alternative to dunking servers in a bath, delivering dielectric fluid to the processors directly through series of tubings. This alternative creates a closed-loop system similar to a larger-scale industrial cooling system, which uses a condenser and an evaporator. Again time will tell if this “small-scale” version will become mainstream.

Whatever the future holds, as we focus on the next cooling solution, the challenge is clear. There is a large fleet of data centers, and their operators must vigilantly focus on operational budgets and prevent any surprising capital investments. Some data centers are decades old, and when it comes to utilities, especially water and cooling, data center operators must maximize the useful life of all equipment components.

Asset Protection: Defend Your Capital Costs

Data center operators with indirect evaporative cooling systems—such as condensers, heat exchangers, and cooling towers—must manage corrosion, scale, and microbiological activity (a three-legged stool for data center water treatment) to protect the high capital cost assets.

With the change in the water quality, the formation of scale and biofilm decreases the chiller efficiency, directly impacting a data center’s power usage effectiveness (PUE). For example, some centers may run twice the number of chillers to achieve the same cooling without successful water treatment. On the other hand, higher corrosion rates may lead to premature infrastructure equipment failure. Finally, microbiological contamination creates deadly Legionella and locally microbially-induced corrosion, which leads to pitting throughout the plant piping. To combat these scenarios in these indirect evaporative cooling systems, operators must treat the open condenser water loop and the closed loop.

On direct evaporative systems, the cooling media is one of the highest costs of the operational cost. Therefore, minimizing scale and biofilm on the media should be a primary target of asset protection.

Maintenance: Optimize Operation and Extend Useful Life

Of course, successful preventative maintenance for cooling and water treatment equipment can also protect assets while preventing future operational failures. When a plant uses water conditioning equipment (softeners or reverse osmosis) to treat incoming water, a rigorous testing and review process (wholistic data center water treatment program) will ensure the equipment is working successfully—and not negatively impacting equipment downstream.

Data center operators can track mean time between failures (MTBF) to ensure which area to focus first. Then operators can dive deep into the root cause analysis by utilizing tools like failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA). Finally, preventative maintenance program can be created based on root causes. Periodic maintenance can extend to any equipment, including pumps, chemical probes, or controllers. Establishing a preventative maintenance program ensures reliable operation while improving the useful life of the equipment.

Don’t forget the spare parts! With the ever-increasing lead times for many commodities we see these days, a spare part inventory with increased safety stock levels ensures peace of mind.

Watch for Water Quality Changes

Recent changing weather patterns have upended decades-long patterns of utility water quality. We can no longer take historical water quality figures for granted. Operators must monitor the water quality closely, acting when necessary, before out-of-spec water impacts cooling equipment downstream.

Streamlined monitoring and processes can ensure constant monitoring and control of incoming water quality for total dissolved solids, alkalinity, pH, and more.

We don’t know what the future holds. Regardless of how you operate your data centers, yourself, or through an operator, a proactive approach can maximize the useful life of your data center equipment. Thus, you can operate your valuable assets successfully for the years to come.