Singapore Unveils the World’s First Tropical Data Centre

The trials being conducted later this year could result in a development which would see energy consumption from data centres reduced by as much as 40 percent

According to a press release delivered by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the city state is conducting trials on the world’s first Tropical Data Centre (TDC), which could reduce energy consumption from data centres by up to 40 percent. The TDC seeks to drive innovation and explore new green data centre technologies as part of Singapore’s Smart Nation drive.

The IDA, in partnership with industry and experts, will set up a data centre and operate it in a tropical environment to test its feasibility with the proof-of-concept aiming to prove, among other things, whether data centres can function optimally at temperatures of up to 38 degrees Celsius and ambient humidity up to or exceeding 90 percent.

The trial would test how data servers react under various “live” situations, such as peak surges or transferring of data, and in diverse conditions, such as with no temperature or humidity controls. The trial servers will run with simulated data. 

If successful, the TDC could significantly reduce global energy consumption by data centres by allowing for higher operating temperatures and humidity levels. Data centres are currently cooled to between 20 to 25 degrees Celsius and kept to within 50 to 60 percent relative ambient humidity for safety. The TDCs could reduce energy costs by up to 40 percent, and reduce carbon emissions.

“Reliable and efficient data centres are key to shaping the future of smart nations and cities, especially with billions of ‘things’ poised to be connected to the cloud,”  said Sumner Lemon, Country Manager of Intel Malaysia & Singapore, a Company set to be heavily involved in the process. “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.

“We look forward to working with IDA in pushing the boundaries of data centre technology and jointly reviewing the results of the trial later this year.”

This trial builds upon IDA’s Green Data Centre Innovation Hub initiative that is part of the Green Data Centre Programme (GDCP) launched in late 2014, which aims to boost overall data centre energy efficiency through innovation, pilot emerging technologies, and by formulating new guidelines for sustainable computing. The GDCP also reaffirms Singapore’s commitment to protect the environment.

Professor Chen Tsuhan, Dean of Nanyang Technological University’s College of Engineering - which is set to play an active role in both the testing of the TDC and the wider initiative - said of the news: “With our industry-based expertise in test-bedding modular data centres and significant capability in data science built up over the past decade, NTU is confident in playing a constructive role to help develop new green data centre technologies specific for tropical conditions.

“Through its School of Computer Science and Engineering, NTU is well positioned to support IDA’s research programme as Singapore faces ever increasing demands for computing power for its data centres.”

IDA is also partnering with Dell, ERS, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei, Keppel Data Centres and The Green Grid for the trial; the dream team of partners subsequently providing hardware, software and expertise for analysis.

Wong Heng Chew, President of Fujitsu Singapore said that innovation and sustainability is at the core of Fujitsu’s business along with the belief that by harnessing the power of ICT, the country can solve the challenges facing society and businesses today:"Fujitsu will be providing our energy-efficient PRIMERGY servers featuring the Cool-safe® advanced thermal design.

“This efficient cooling system enables our PRIMERGY server’s operational temperature range to change from 10 to 35 degrees Celsius, to five to 45 degrees Celsius. This reduces the costs of cooling, and minimises risks of heat-related downtimes, making it highly suitable for use in our tropical environment."

With some of the brightest technological minds in tow, and the eyes of the wider industry well and truly caught, the scene is now set for the proof-of-concept TDC which is due to be set up in the third quarter of 2016 within a controlled test environment in a Keppel Data Centres facility.

Mr Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive of the IDA said in the release: “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.  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.

“To create new value in our Smart Nation journey, we need to embrace an attitude of experimentation, to be willing to develop new ideas together, and test the feasibility of progressive and positive technological advancements that has a good possibility to enhance our industry's competitiveness."

Lei Hui, CEO of Huawei International added: “With greater computational and storage capabilities, large and ultra-large data centres form the backbone of technologies that are enabling Smart Nations. Yet service providers face daunting challenges with high energy demand and maintenance costs. Green data centres will be key in reducing energy demands, carbon emissions and maintenance expenditures.”