I have had discussions recently with companies working on more sustainable data centers. Data centers are where much of the world’s data is stored and process. Let’s look at some of the things I have heard from Equinix and Softiron on data center and data center equipment sustainability developments.
Equinix expanded its Great Oaks Silicon Valley International Business Exchange with a $142M highly energy efficient data center in June 2021. The facility, SV11, uses energy efficient systems throughout the facility and has 20MW energy capacity with a Bloom Energy fuel cell as primary energy with utility electrical grid and generators as backup sources.
Equinix says that it is 95% renewable globally with some of their data centers moving to 24/7 products. Most Equinix data centers have large diesel generators for electricity backup and the company is looking at using hydrogenated vegetable oil which reduces generator carbon emissions by 90%. The company has separate hot and cold air flows and has worked on setting more energy conservative set points for equipment like chillers. The company says it has achieved a 5.5% improvement in energy consumption since last year.
In December 2021 Equinix announced the Clean Hydrogen Partnership to help fund a project to develop low-carbon solid-oxide fuel cells to power data centers with a consortium of seven companies, including Equinix, InfraPrime, RISE, Snam, SOLIDpower, TEC4FUELS and Vertiv. This project is funded by a grant by the Clearn Hydrogen Partership from the Horizon 2020 program of the European Commission.
In January 2022 Equinix announced the opening of its Co-Innovation Facility (CIF) in its DC15 international Business Exchanges (IBX) data center at its Ashburn Campus near Washington, D.C. Among the innovations being explored at the Co-Innovation Facility are hydrogen-enabled fuel cells and more capable battery systems. Equinix said that “Sustainable innovations, including liquid cooling, high-density cooling, intelligent power management and on-site prime power generation, will be incubated in the CIF in partnership with leading data center technology innovators including Bloom Energy, ZutaCore, Virtual Power Systems (VPS) and Natron.”
In collaboration with Equinix, these partners are testing core and edge technologies with a focus on proving reliability, efficiency and cost to build. These include:
· Generator-less and UPS-less Data Centers (Bloom Energy) – Utilizing on-site solid oxide fuel cells enables the data center to generate redundant cleaner energy on-grid, and potentially eliminates the need for fossil fuel-powered generators and power-consuming Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) systems.
· High-Density Liquid Cooling (ZutaCore) – Highly efficient, direct-on-chip, waterless, two-phase liquid cooled rack systems, capable of cooling upwards of 100 kW per rack in a light, compact design. Eliminates risk of IT meltdown, minimizes use of scarce resources including energy, land, construction and water, and dramatically shrinks the data center footprint.
· Software-Defined Power (VPS) with cabinet-mounted Battery Energy Storage (Natron Energy) – Cabinet power management and battery energy storage system manages power draw and minimizes power stranding to near zero percent, leading to a potential 30-50% improvement of power efficiency.
SoftIron announced that an assessment conducted by investor, Earth Capital Ltd., highlighted SoftIron initiatives in sustainable IT solutions. SoftIron says that the report demonstrates how the company is helping its customers reduce their carbon footprints through the use of its highly integrated HyperDrive storage platform that dramatically reduces space and energy footprint, highlighting that the energy usage of the platform “is up to five times smaller than that of equivalent appliances on the market.”
The figure below from the assessment document shows that an industry standard server has up to 5 times larger equivalent C02 emissions than that of a single SoftIron node.
About 77% (2,227 +/-223 kg CO2) comes from the use of the product while about 23% (671 +/-40 kg CO2) comes from the creation and shipping of the product (as shown above).
Equinix is driving a push towards more sustainable data centers using Fuel Cells and other initiatives in its Clean Hydrogen Partnership. SoftIron sustainability assessment indicates that the company’s HyperDrive storage uses up to 5X less than industry standard servers.