Briefing Report

Silicon heatwave: the looming change in data center climates


  • After a long period of relative stability, typical server power consumption has risen steeply since the middle of the 2010s — and is expected to keep rising.
  • The force behind this trend is an upsurge in silicon power, chiefly server processors, which is likely to continue.
  • High thermal power and lower temperature limits of next-generation server processors will challenge the practicality of air cooling and frustrate efficiency and sustainability drives.
  • Government and military infrastructure use a variety of protective measures against EMP, some of which may be useful for nongovernmental data centers.
  • Data center operators face some complex decisions around how to prepare their facilities (if at all) for the next generation of higher power servers.

The evolution of the data center has, by and large, been shaped by developments in IT. From their beginnings as a few small rooms with a handful of big and expensive computers, data centers have swelled in numbers and size to house large numbers of relatively small and inexpensive machines.

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