While technology may discover the silver bullet for climate change, at this moment e-waste is a legitimate problem
Today, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) announced it is set to begin trials on what it calls the world’s first Tropical Data Centre — a project the government agency hopes can reduce energy consumption by up to 40 per cent.
It comes in the context of an increasingly acute global environmental protection emergency and a technology industry stuck in an awkward position.
Many people consider technological developments to be humanity’s best hope of curbing climate change. Last week, China’s ‘stradling bus‘ was held up as an example of a potential transportation evolution that could reduce greenhouse gases.
On the other hand, trashing out-of-date hardware, running data centers and cooling giant server farms contribute immensely to the our current environmental predicament. Furthermore, the UN said e-waste is disproportionately the burden of poor countries.
In Singapore, with high humidity and temperatures daily climbing over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), data centres and server hubs need to blast internal cooling systems to ensure the systems — which support the city’s cutting edge technology —do not break down.
According to an April 2015 article by DatacenterDynamics, 7 per cent of all energy consumption in Singapore can be attributed to data centres. This means the behind-the-scenes of our startup economy consumes significant energy and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
With this in mind, the IDA, in partnership with both businesses and experts, is attempting to build a proof-of-concept of whether or not a data centre can function optimally in temperatures up to 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) and exceeding 90 per cent humidity. Currently, data centres are cooled to about 20 to 25 degrees Celsius (68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit).
“With Singapore’s continued growth as a premium hub for data centres, we want to develop new technologies and standards that allow us to operate advanced data centres in the most energy efficient way in a tropical climate,” said IDA Assistant Chief Executive Khoong Hock Yun in an official statement.
“New ideas and approaches, such as raising either the ambient temperature or humidity, will be tested to see if these can greatly increase our energy efficiency, with insignificant impact on the critical data centre operations,” he added.
The trial will put the data servers through a series of ‘live’ tests including peak surges, data transfers and even eliminating temperature and humidity controls.
It will be set up in the third quarter of 2016 in a controlled environment in the Keppel Data Centre facilities.
The project is part of the agency’s Green Data Centre Programme (under the Green Data Centre Innovation Hub initiative) that was launched in late 2014.
“This proof-of-concept trial is important not just for Singapore; it is a critical step in addressing the design and management of next-generation data centres in all countries with tropical temperatures and high humidity,” said Sumner Lemon, Intel Country Manager for Singapore and Malaysia in an official statement.
Partnering companies and institutions are Dell, ERS, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei, Intel, Keppel Data Centres, The Green Grid, and Nanyang Technological University.
The participating agencies will contribute hardware (server racks and space), software (monitoring and management) and human expertise.
After the trial, the findings will be analysed by the IDA and industry experts in order to draw conclusions.
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