Executive Insights: Kevin Facinelli of Nortek Data Center Cooling 4Q 2021

The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from Kevin Facinelli of Nortek […]

The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from Kevin Facinelli of Nortek Data Center Cooling.

KEVIN FACINELLI, Nortek Data Center Cooling

Kevin Facinelli, is Group President for Nortek Data Center Cooling, a segment of Nortek, St. Louis. Nortek Data Center Cooling offers efficient, sustainable cooling solutions to fit the needs of any data center – from chip to plant.  Facinelli is an operations and technology specialist with experience in IoT, supply chain optimization, industrial technology and other disciplines.  He is the former executive vice president of operations for Daikin Applied Americas, Minneapolis, Minn. Prior to Daikin, Facinelli was vice president of manufacturing and technology, Johnson Controls Inc., Milwaukee, Wis.

Here’s the full text of Kevin Facinelli’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:

Data Center Frontier: Several hyperscale operators have indicated they expect to boost capital investment in digital infrastructure in coming years. What’s the outlook for hyperscale computing in 2021, and what will this mean for data center developers and service providers?

Kevin Facinelli: The hyperscale data center industry showed double digit increases in 2021. We expect similar growth in 2022, but now it depends on resolving current supply chain commodity and material bottlenecks that are facing all cooling equipment manufacturers. Hyperscale developers are also facing geographical location challenges. Developers are continually looking for locales with favorable climates and where water and power resources are plentiful, especially for cooling the huge heat loads expected of tomorrow’s rack densities. Those three factors–climate, water and power–can significantly limit location choices.

Furthermore, governments increasingly want to regionalize data centers within their borders for data privacy and data transportation reasons. Those countries may have unfavorable climates, or power and water resources.

One solution that offsets all these challenges is the specification of cooling equipment that operates efficiently in most any climate or resource-challenged geographical areas. Recent technological advancements in data center cooling now make it possible to achieve unprecedented levels of WUE 0.09 and pPUE of 1.06 (1.025 if fan coil wall energy is subtracted) depending on the local climate. Those statistics equate up to 90% and 50% less water and power usage respectively, versus traditional cooling methodologies. Consequently, this technology affords hyperscale data centers the flexibility and freedom to operate nearly any place on the globe.

Data Center Frontier: Enterprise IT spending appears to be rebounding after subdued spending in 2020.  What are the most important trends you’re seeing in enterprise demand, and how might they impact the data center business in 2022?

Kevin Facinelli: We’re seeing slower growth in enterprise IT, versus the quickly expanding growth for hyperscale and large colocation data centers. There’s no doubt digitization is continuing to skyrocket. Therefore, those companies running enterprise IT may find that more data hall space, servers and cooling equipment are many times better served by moving IT operations to colocation facilities.

Data Center Frontier: Cooling is a hot topic, as data center operators seek to balance growing use of AI hardware with commitments on sustainability and water use.  What do you expect will be the key themes in data center cooling in the next several years?

Kevin Facinelli: One thing that’s predictable is AI computing will generate more rack power density. That’s why data centers should future-proof their facilities now with cooling plant strategies that are scalable. For example, if more servers are added to a data hall, liquid cooling at the rack can easily be integrated to cool the added heat load. Future-proofing a facility with cooling equipment alternatives, such as modular equipment with small footprints that can be easily integrated to existing equipment, should be part of all data centers’ long-term goals.

Future heat loads can be accommodated with as many modular cooling plants and coil walls that space allows. Sustainability and TCO are more critical now than ever before. A good example is India-based colocation operator RackBank, which is building a 180MW GigaCampus platform project. Their goal is a 100-percent clean energy facility with zero carbon footprints. To accomplish this they’re using some of the most sustainable liquid cooling equipment in the industry. Water is a limited resource in India, so RackBank’s cooling equipment uses up to 90-percent less water than the traditional liquid cooling methodology. RackBank’s admirable efforts will make a difference in India’s resources, especially when similar sustainability is applied to its 500MW pan India expansion in several cities.

We see this type of sustainability and efficient water use as the future of the data center industry for hyperscale and colocation facilities for maintaining low TCO.

Data Center Frontier: What might increased adoption of “metaverse” virtual worlds mean for digital infrastructure and the data center industry?  

Kevin Facinelli: As environments become more immersive, realistic and virtual, the demand on information is going to grow exponentially. The metaverse will allow people to interact with other individuals and assets more holistically. This requires more data, which in turn generates more heat. The data center industry doesn’t know the future of the metaverse, but they can predictably assume they’ll need sustainable, future-proof liquid cooling technology.