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Singapore's government writes a standard for datacenter ops in the tropics

Turning up the heat can turn down cooling bills, even as 30°C and 84 percent humidity prevail

Singapore's government last week released a standard for operating datacenters in tropical conditions.

The island nation is nearly always sticky, with daily temperatures and humidity averaging 30°C and 84 percent throughout the year. It also houses 60 percent of the region's datacenters, so local authorities have experience keeping the facilities working in the heat.

According to Singapore's Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the big challenge tropical datacenters operators face is high levels of energy required to operate cooling systems.

"Apart from devising a cooling strategy optimized for the typical temperature and relative humidity ranges found in the tropics, this [sustainability standard] SS also informs datacenter operators on ways to measure and calculate the total cost of operations under these conditions, to justify their use and get buy-in from datacenter customers on the benefits of tropical datacenters,” reads the description of the standard, which can be downloaded for a little over $30 if you're keen.

The standard were developed on the principle that current industry practice covers many climates, and can be trimmed for specific environments.

The authors adjusted the operation envelope of datacenters in high temp and high humidity environments to devise a total cost of ownership (TCO) model believed to not compromise equipment reliability or performance.

"Based on analysis of empirical data collected from production servers monitored by the Tropical Data Centre (TDC) research team, an environmental operating envelope optimized for energy efficiency is derived, and the method for application, measurement and monitoring is described," wrote the authors.

The documents do not consider any cooling methods beyond air conditioning and mechanical ventilation (ACMV), like immersive cooling.

They may suggest increasing operating temps by 2°C at 4.5 MW datacenters: that's what Digital Realty did in a trial of the standard that the company said decreased its total data energy usage by two to three percent.

Janil Puthucheary, Singapore's minister of state for communications and information, said in a keynote speech last Thursday at the ATxSG conference that one datacenter operator which has adopted the standard already estimated energy cost savings of over SGD$250,000 ($185m) per year.

"As demand for datacenters increases, energy efficiency will be critical to ensure the sustainable growth of this industry," said the minister, who noted that computing capacity was only expected to increase to match the needs of the "global digital economy" – including AI.

Singapore's digital connectivity blueprint, released last week, recognizes the shift to distributed cloud with edge-centric computing – as the need for IoT devices, AI and autonomous machines will require more efficient and localized datacenters.

IMDA said the standards are just a starting point for greening datacenters. In the long term the government will chart a roadmap towards net-zero datacenters powered by renewable energy. ®

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