Singapore to offer enterprises incentives to buy greener hardware

Tropical nation ends DC build hiatus and calls for energy optimization everywhere – even software

Singapore will offer incentives aimed at encouraging enterprises to upgrade their hardware fleets, as part of a Green Data Centre Roadmap announced yesterday.

The government's green vision includes a mix of old and new tech, senior minister of state for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary explained at a summit in Singapore on Thursday.

"We do want to use the best in class that we already know about today, but we want to put in place a process to then develop further innovations," explained the minister.

The island nation is a regional datacenter hub, hosting more than 70 cloud, enterprise, and co-location bit barns that consume a collective 1.4 gigawatts. While the nation's government welcomes those facilities – the digital economy is responsible for 17 percent of Singapore's GDP – it is also mindful that datacenters consume plenty of power and water, and will likely consume more as demand for more facilities and energy-intensive applications grow.

And that's a problem for Singapore – a tiny nation whose landmass is less than the area occupied by New York City or greater London. It has therefore halted approvals of new datacenters in recent years.

"Industry and governments worldwide are increasingly conscious that datacenters cannot continue to grow in an unsustainable manner, without managing their resource footprint," the roadmap [PDF] states.

Singapore's response is to encourage all industry participants to use less energy.

Datacenter operators have been told that their future builds will be looked upon more favorably if proposals include use of "viable low-carbon energy sources, on top of having to offer best-in-class solutions for lowering PUE and achieving IT energy efficiencies."

Bit barn businesses and their customers will also be encouraged to consider the impact of software on energy efficiency. "IT users can leverage green software techniques like application modernization and computational offload to reduce the computational demands of applications," the roadmap suggests – hinting at the desirability of SmartNICs and containerized applications.

The government also wants end-user orgs to consider "software carbon intensity," which the roadmap suggests can be measured by drawing up "a software 'demand' profile that helps identify 'carbon hotspots' within the software." Use of virtualization is also suggested as a means of controlling energy consumption.

Sadly, the roadmap doesn't detail the hardware purchase incentives or indicate when they'll be offered.

It does, however, suggest that the Green Roadmap is key to Singapore's ambition to add substantial new datacenter capacity. The island nation plans to bring another 300 megawatts worth of facilities online in the near term, and wants those builds to "seed hybrid ways to unlock further capacity through green energy."

According to Puthucheary, Singapore could allow an extra 200MW – if the next 300MW delivers useful sustainability insights.

"We are an unlikely country to be a regional datacenter hub … and yet we are," admitted the minister, reasoning that Singapore's steamy climate is not ideal for big rooms full of computers.

Puthucheary declared that Singapore needs to turn constraints into opportunity: "This requires growth through sustainability."

The unanswered question about the Green Road Map was whether the datacenters – with their new capacity and methods to slow power consumption – would be enough to fuel the AI boom.

On a panel, the Tony Blair Institute's chief policy strategist Benedict Macon-Cooney called generative AI and the corresponding energy demand "completely interconnected revolutions."

"Countries that can see these strategies as interconnected will be the ones I think that more likely to thrive in the years ahead," he predicted. ®

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