• June 3, 2023

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I spoke with Marty Rozmanith, Strategy Director, Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industry at Dassault Systemes about building sustainable data centers using virtual twin models. It is estimated that the world’s data centers use 2-3% of all available electricity today and could consume 8% by 2030 according to a Nature article; so, making more efficient and sustainable data centers can help reduce greenhouse gases and reduce dependence on outside energy sources. Data centers are where the bulk of the world’s data is stored and processed and building sustainable data center infrastructure is an important enabler for future data growth and processing.

Digital twins are an approach to model physical entities by a digital model that emulates the operation of the physical entity with great fidelilty. We have written recently about factories and warehouses using digital twins to optimize their operations, using e.g. NVIDIA GPUs for these models.

Rozmanith says that they build a building information model that do engineering simulation and assembly planning to try out various designs and operations in a virtual model before going on site to build the data center. They use a method called product lifecycle management (PLM). Dassault has used this building design approach for non-data center applications such as student housing and a nursing facility in France to speed up the design and build process and thus keep the project within its budget. The figure below shows the various elements that go into creating a digital twin of a real-world data center.

As with other building projects, each data center site has unique requirements and conditions. These need to be used in any project model drive the design and physical solutions to meet these requirements including greater energy efficiency and other sustainability requirements. Designing data centers using modular components and systems form various suppliers is common.

Dassault uses a multi-tier construction system based upon PLM principles, digital twins modelling and an interactive ecosystem of suppliers who can provide a more flexible, well-designed and sustainable data center. The figure below shows Dessault’s view of this multi-stage modular approach to construction.


Rozmanith said that Dessault’s digital twins data center construction simulation reduced time to market by 15%. He also said that the modular approach reduces design time by 20%. Their overall goal is to shorten data center stand-up time by 50% and reduce the waste commonly generated in data center construction. Even after construction, digital twins for the operation of a data center will be useful for evaluating and planning future upgrades and data center changes.

Some data center companies, such as Apple have designed their data centers to be 100% sustainable for several years. Seagate recently announced that it would power its global footprint with 100% renewable energy by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. These goals were announced in conjunction with the release of the company’s 16th Global Citizenship Annual Report.

That report included a look at the company’s annual progress towards meeting emission reduction targets, product stewardship, talent enablement, diversity goals, labor standards, fair trade, supply chain, and more. The environmental highlights of the report include:

· Energy Conservation

· In FY2021, we saved approximately 23,000 MWh amounting to 14,000 tCO2e of electricity through energy conservation and efficiency initiatives, exceeding our conservation goal of 10,000 MWh for the year.

· Recycling

· Continued product circularity partnerships with Dell and Google to recycle components such as voice coil magnet assemblies and materials that use rare earth elements.

· Hazardous Waste

· Seagate has decreased the intensity of hazardous waste generated per exabyte (EB) by 17% in FY2021, mostly through recycling, diverting 84% of waste away from landfill.

· Water Recycling

· Water recycling increased by more than 9% year-over-year.

With the expected volume of data that will be generated in the coming years and the increasing dependence on cloud-based resources, data centers are under pressure to consume less energy in their operation as well as be designed and built with a smaller carbon footprint. Dassault Systemes is using digital twins to create more sustainable data center design and construction and companies such as Apple and Seagate are building more sustainable data centers.


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