We sat down with Evoqua’s Wayne Powell, Regional Sales Manager – Industrial Disinfection for EMEA and Paul Gueran – Technical Sales Manager of Water Treatment Equipment at ph Water & Air Technologies to talk about the global growth in datacentres, and how to manage that growth – and its environmental footprint – sustainably.
Q. So how did your companies come to be working together?
Wayne Powell (WP): Paul was originally a customer of ATG UV Technology, and when Evoqua acquired ATG in 2019, we started talking about our strong mutual interest in the industrial sector – specifically, the jump in demand for data capacity provided by Hyperscale and Co-location datacentres.
Paul Gueran (PG): Having worked within the water industry for many years, I was increasingly finding myself providing water treatment solutions to the data centre market. Over the last few years, it has become a common request to provide chemical-free pathogen control in water systems to mitigate the risk of process water to public health, the mechanical infrastructure or the system itself.
Evoqua’s (previously ATG UV Technology) Ultraviolet UV-C water disinfection systems, with their durable industrial build and comprehensive options line-up, have always met my criteria for quality product. I am always happy to propose Evoqua solutions for install within a data centre environment.
Q. How has the pandemic contributed to that rise in demand?
PG: 2020 saw massive growth in digital transformation around the globe due to the pandemic, and hand-in-hand with that has come massive growth in data centre investment and development. The Financial Times ran a piece saying that cloud services are expected to attract 14 per cent of the global IT spend next year, up from nine per cent in 2020. In Europe, the cloud market is projected to go up to something like €76bn in 2021, an increase of almost 15 per cent over last year.
Q. So how do Evoqua and ph Water play a role in datacentre management?
PG: Modern data centres are critical to everyday life – especially as we’re all doing everything online now from home. Water is critical in keeping those data centres cool through heat transfer and heat rejection. Literally thousands of cubic metres of water can flow through an average data centre cooling system each day. Heat load rejection in the form of open evaporative cooling towers will constantly draw external biological contaminants into the water system.
In addition, data centres require redundancy and resiliency which means bulk water storage and complex piping and control systems. If you leave this water untreated, you can get serious process issues from scaling and biological fouling to corrosion and public health risk. Bottom line: issues can cause detrimental outages and reduction in operational capacity.
WP: Industries like data centres use cooling towers to maintain heat transfer surfaces and enable process heat removal and product throughput. As Paul said, water from cooling tower applications attracts and absorbs airborne contaminants on a continuous basis, contributing to the excessive creation of deposits which lead to a reduction in heat transfer efficiencies and increased operating and maintenance costs.
Q. How do your water-cooling treatment solutions contribute to sustainable business operations for datacentres?
WP: Server farms are typically located between the system switches and routers, and the removal of heat from these facilities is critical to their optimal performance. The building’s cooling capabilities, rather than its processing speed, limit performance of the servers – especially if they are trying to handle a load that includes cluster computing, scientific simulation, the rendering of detailed 3D images, and the complex transactions required by web enterprises.
In many cases for every 100 watts used to power the server, 50 watts is required to cool it. The critical design parameter for these large and complex continuous systems is performance per watt. As a result, maintaining effective and continuous cooling is critical to server performance.
PG: Managing the waterborne contaminants - whether particulate or biological - will allow the process to maintain the designed heat transfer efficiencies. Biological fouling can dramatically increase the cost of cooling for a data centre as it has a very low thermal conductivity. A clean process water network will minimise operational expenditure and extend the life of the system.
Q. Do you know of any examples of datacentres using more sustainable approaches to water cooling and treatment?
PG: We know that one major online company has established a server cluster in Lulea, Northern Sweden (within 62 miles of the Arctic Circle), to benefit from the availability of cold air.
High-speed fibre optic cables link the USA to cooler climates, such as Iceland. Another operator operates 12 data centres globally, with six in the USA, and uses 260 million watts of power, or 0.01% of global power consumption.
WP: These complex, large scale operations require a great deal of cooling, and for some time now the trend has been to move away from the use of chemicals and towards non-chemical, more water efficient and critically robust disinfection processes. UV disinfection of the cooling water plays a central role in these process critical applications; preventing harmful microbial growth that can pose a danger to employees, while effecting the performance of the cooling system.
Q. Why is this partnership model working so well?
PG: ph Water Technologies operates a successful business model around forming strategic partnerships with leading suppliers like Evoqua. Having a reliable supply chain you can count on time after time to deliver quality products and service allows more time to be focused on the clients needs and maintains our reputation for service and project delivery.
The marketplace is evolving rapidly and with our depth of experience, we can advise on new and emerging technologies and help our clients to achieve full compliance with their legislative responsibilities.
We work with strategic vendors like Evoqua to ensure efficient operation and longer lifecycles by offering a broad selection of tailored water treatment solutions to remove suspended solids and control biological growth in the recirculating water stream. The benefits of working with experts like Evoqua are improved system efficiency, minimised annual cleanings, reduced costs and optimised effectiveness.
Q. What projects are you working on together right now?
PG: The opportunity to work with Evoqua to provide process water disinfection solutions for hyperscale data centres is huge - and since October 2020, we’ve worked together to secure or quote on at least six of these projects worldwide. We have a busy and exciting year ahead of us.
ph Water & Air Technologies is an integrator of Evoqua technologies into water treatment systems.