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Singapore to pioneer tropical datacentre

If successful, trial would prove that datacentres can function optimally at temperatures of up to 38°C and humidity of up to, or exceeding, 90%

Singapore is trialling a tropical datacentre (TDC) to work out how to reduce the high cost of cooling in such a climate.

A large proportion of datacentres’ power consumption goes on cooling, so Singapore, with its hot and humid climate, is at a cost disadvantage when using traditional technology.  

“Many countries use variability in weather conditions to engineer ‘free cooling’ in the datacentre design to take advantage of overnight falls in temperature or cooler conditions during winter,” said Glen Duncan, senior research manager, datacentre, at IDC. “Singapore, however, has consistent weather which is relatively hot and humid, and datacentre designs are less able to take advantage of variability in weather.”

Speaking at a ministerial forum last month, Singapore’s communications and information minister, Yaacob Ibrahim, said the government and its partners would test whether datacentres could be operated in temperature and humidity levels that are double the current norm. At present, safety standards dictate that datacentres should operate in temperatures between 20°C and 25°C with 50% to 60% relative ambient humidity.

The TDC will be set up in a controlled test environment in a Keppel datacentre facility, and will be run in partnership with Dell, ERS, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Huawei, Intel, The Green Grid and Nanyang Technological University.

The trial is part of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore’s (IDA) Green Datacentre Programme, which aims to boost overall datacentre energy-efficiency.

According to the IDA’s estimates, the TDC could reduce datacentre energy consumption by up to 40%. Currently, datacentres are a big drain on Singapore’s energy resources, accounting for nearly 7% of the country’s energy consumption, and are growing quickly.

Read more about Asean datacentres

“Singapore is on the right track to trial the world’s first tropical datacentre, given that almost 65% of the energy used in datacentres goes to cool the building,” said Raju Chellam, head of big data and cloud at Dell Enterprise Solutions, South Asia.

“Besides the uniqueness of the initiative that will potentially help Singapore brand itself as a green smart nation, it might also promote Singapore as a hub for datacentre sites,” said Glen Francis, president of CIO Academy Asia. “Being green brings additional advantages to what Singapore already has – a safe zone for data to be held and political and environmental stability.”

Francis added that domestic demand from the government and financial services firms would be high, given that data needs to be held within the country.

A recent report by consulting firm BroadGroup said datacentres in Southeast Asia would see substantial growth over the next two years, with investment expected to hit US$3.4bn by the end of 2017.

Read more on Datacentre energy efficiency and green IT

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