Air-cooled data centre module at NTU

Researchers find a cool way to contain data-centre costs

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and Toshiba have developed an advanced cooling technology for data centres.

Researchers are now test-bedding a new data centre that combines Toshiba’s air-cooling technology with NTU’s advanced info-communications technology (ICT).

The test-bed aims to demonstrate a sustainable solution for data centres operating in South-East Asia’s tropical climate.

This is done by using container-sized modules that can stand alone or be combined for more computing power, together with a smart cooling system.

One key factor is the use of outside air for cooling whenever feasible, such as when the outdoor temperature is lower than the hot-air temperature inside the data centre.

Most data centres use air-conditioning round the clock, using re-circulated air which has to be cooled, running up large energy bills.

The new ICT technologies developed by NTU will optimise the use of computer servers in the data centre by consolidating multiple applications into one server, then putting the other servers which are not in use into sleep mode, saving both direct electricity use and the energy needed to cool them.

The technologies employed in this test-bed have already demonstrated energy savings of up to 40 per cent as compared to conventional data centres in Japan.

Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N), said that energy efficiency solutions for residential and industrial sectors are one of the key areas of research for his centre.

“Data centres, essential for our IT-intensive telecommunications, data transmission and financial sectors, represent one of the highest levels of energy utilisation in Singapore,” Professor Mhaisalkar said.

“These co-developed cooling solutions, leveraging NTU’s expertise in sustainability engineering and technology, will allow us to significantly reduce the energy consumption in modern data centres.

“I believe that similar approaches and solutions will be adopted for use quite readily in our push to develop green and more energy efficient buildings.”

Mr Ryuji Maruyama, general manager of Toshiba’s Smart Community Division, pointed out that the transition to Big Data and cloud computing is bringing with it huge demands for energy needed to power and cool data centres.

“The Singapore Infocomm Development Authority has recognised that our modular data centre solution with outside-air cooling technology can make a significant contribution to solving this problem.

“We are confident that our collaboration with NTU will result in a successful demonstration of our technology and position us to contribute to the development of the data centre sector in Singapore and its expansion throughout south east Asia,” Mr Maruyama added.

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