Powering green data centers -- NTT's successes and challenges
By Carol Ko 31-Jul-2012
On July 12, NTT Com Asia announced its cloud service delivery NTT Communications Hong Kong Data Centre received the LEED Silver certification for its green practices and improvements in operations.
According to NTT Com Asia, this is the only data center project in Hong Kong that achieved the LEED accreditation under the category "Existing Buildings: Operation & Maintenance."
The LEED certification benchmarks green buildings in terms of design, construction and operation. Under the LEED 2009 rating system, awardees of the LEED Silver certification receive a score of 50-59 points out of 100 base points.
In 2011, the NTT Communications Hong Kong Data Centre was awarded the Best Green ICT Silver Award at the Hong Kong ICT Awards, in recognition of its green-based management approach, vision and energy efficiency achievements.
Launched in 2009 in Tai Po, Hong Kong, the NTT Communications Hong Kong Data Centre is a seven-floor building with a gross area of 212,100 sq ft. Supported with a Tier 1 IP backbone, the facility is a Tier III+ fully-redundant infrastructure with ISO-certified operations and security management.
Today, the NTT Communications Hong Kong Data Centre delivers a range of enterprise cloud services, including private cloud (virtual infrastructure hosting and virtual desktop on a dedicated platform), public cloud (virtual server hosting over public or private network, web hosting and virtual desktop on a shared platform), and hybrid cloud, which is basically customized cloud solutions.
Challenging LEED requirements
"[I]t is extremely challenging to meet the LEED's stringent requirements in terms of 'Operations'"
-- Taylor Man, executive VP, new business division, NTT Com Asia
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council , the LEED certification (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification) evaluates a "green" building based on sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy consumption and atmospheric conditions, materials and resources usage as well as indoor environmental quality.
To get accredited by LEED, NTT Com Asia adopted a "sustainable Integrated Data Centre Management approach" to improve its data center operations by integrating green practices from facility design to ongoing regular audit requirements.
"New buildings are typically designed to meet the latest green construction standards; yet it is extremely challenging to meet the LEED's stringent requirements in terms of 'Operations' as it involves dedicated supervision in every single detail as well as comprehensive staff training in long run," said Taylor Man (pictured), NTT Com Asia's new business division executive vice president.
"By optimizing energy and water efficiency, implementing waste management (see figure 1 below) and sustainable purchasing policy, improvement of indoor environment quality by utilizing green cleaning policy, the facility has significantly optimized the energy performance, achieved high water efficiency, minimized environmental impact and improved of indoor air quality," said Man. According to NTT Com Asia, the facility has achieved a near 15% improvement in energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions significantly since its launch in 2009.
Figure 1. A waste management facility at the NTT Communications Hong Kong Data Centre
(source: NTT Com Asia)
No renewable energy adoption in Asia
Given NTT Communications' green commitment, does NTT Com Asia power its data centers in Asia using renewable sources of energy?
In an interview with Asia Cloud Forum, NTT Com's Man implies the company is not powering its data centers in Asia by renewable energy sources, but is open to consider using them. He said, "Whilst reliability of energy is amongst the one of the most important factors for data centers in addition to availability of land, legislative system, manpower resources and so on, we would consider alternative energy source such as renewable energy where practical."
Whereas in the States, NTT Communications' data center in Lundy, San Jose is partially powered by directed biogas fuel cells. "It [directed biogas fuel cells] will generate approximately 7.5% of the electricity needs on site and further reduce 4.3 million pounds of CO2 per year," Man said.
Does it make sense?
Considering the cost efficiency factor, does it make sense to drive power-hungry data centers by renewable energy sources?
"I'd be surprised if any country adopted renewable sources of energy to power its data centers, because it cannot compete on those grounds."
-- Bruno Lanvin, executive director of INSEAD eLab
Bruno Lanvin, executive director of INSEAD eLab, the research arm of international business school INSEAD, said data centers consume considerable amounts of energy, and thus the contribution of renewable energy can only be minimal. "I'd be surprised if any country adopted renewable sources of energy to power its data centers, because it cannot compete on those grounds," he told Asia Cloud Forum at the Ingenuity Awards 2012 co-organized by the Financial Times and Citi in Hong Kong last month.
"In Europe, data centers are moving up north to countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and even Canada. Due to their climatic conditions, they wouldn't need to consider issues about cooling. In this part of the world [Asia], it is almost impossible, because we cannot host a data center in a country in Europe. But if tomorrow someone like Singapore put their data centers 2 km below the sea level, this will be an interesting solution [to run data centers with green power sources].
"Now, the use of renewable sources of energy is more about company image than [satisfying] the economic equation. But powering data centers using renewable sources of energy must start to exist, if not experiment," Lanvin added.