On the 23rd and 24th of July OpenGov Asia and its partner Schneider Electric held two breakfast briefings. The topic covered, was on Power Utilisation Effectiveness (PUE) working to a Greener Data Centre.
The breakfast started with an introduction by Mr. Mohit Sagar, Managing Director and Editor in Chief of OpenGov Asia. “Our focus is following the Singapore theme of a Smart Nation.” Singapore needs to leapfrog in the technology industry and continue their position as a Smart Nation.
As more and more devices are connected to the Internet, more data is collected. The Internet of Things (IoT), refers to devices connected and communicating across the Internet, sometimes referred to as connected devices. This has produced an enormous increase in the demand for storage, in turn increasing the demand for power. Mr. Sagar expanded on this, by saying the technology of data centres can only remain effective based on its power use and storage capacity.
Green Data Centres are not on our radar, but it should be! As Singapore aims to be the global hub of data centres it is increasing our demand on this technology and higher power consumption. With the increase of use, comes higher electricity costs and decreased conservation of energy. Mr. Sagar brings up the question, “How do we reach these green data centre benchmarks?”
OpenGov Asia runs these events to creating conversations between the public sector and leading experts within an industry. This event focused around data centres, their use and the challenges faced by them with this ever increasing demand, looking to better understand these issues and discuss potential solutions.
Mr. Robert M Pe, from Schneider Electric, starts to introduce a solution to the question of “How do we use green sustainable construction in our data centers to meet standards of efficiency?” He begins by explaining that typical data centres (DCs) consume huge amounts of energy. This reflected in a significant portion of the operating budget of these DCs. To lessen the impact of DCs on the environment, the Singapore Standard 564 (SS564) was introduced to help organisations reduce the energy consumption and operating costs of the DCs. This standard has been further enhanced with the introduction of BCA-IDA’s Green Mark for New Data Centres (NDC – V1.0). DCs can only obtain the BCA-IDA’s Green Mark after achieving certification in the SS564. To achieve this certification there is a level of assessment required, which Mr. Pe spoke about. These reports contain many different parameters but much is focused around the PUE which is used to track energy efficiency in a data center.
OpenGov Asia had flown Mr. Greg Boorer, CEO of Canberra Data Centres in from Australia to talk about his experience in building one of Australia’s leading Data Centres. Mr. Boorer says that 8 years ago every government agency in Australia had its own data center. He can see that this was not sustainable. Mr. Boorer started his journey in building two DC campuses in Canberra, Australia. He currently has the largest DC capacity for Australian Federal Government.
The Canberra Data Centres (CCDs) are built around modularity and flexibility which has enabled considerable energy efficiencies. Mr. Boorer states that investment in green data centers is vital to an organisation’s conservation of energy resources. IT capacity depends on matching power and cooling facilities. His secret is that data centers are much like real estate, you need to invest due to the changing technology to stay in an advantaged position in this industry. Mr. Boorer elaborates on the importance of modularization of technology. This provides the ability to remain agile, allowing innovation over the full lifecycle of the data center.
Mr. Rupert Gwee, Director (NS Affairs Directorate & Human Resource Transformation Office) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, states that PUE is always in the back of mind. As an experienced adopter, Mr. Gwee claims that modularity is key to PUE.
Various challenges arise when facing data centres. Mr. Marc Dimmick, former Senior Manager of Business Systems at the Department of Environment Regulation in Western Australia, exclaims that government has a low level of Government Cloud adoption. This is due to financial constraints. The matter of meeting the power and cooling demand capacity is a struggle. Mr. Dimmick struggled with legacy in trying to transition to more advanced computer infrastructure in their data centers. The changes would reduce the size of infrastructure as well as reduce the cost of power being consumed. This in turn would free up funds for other investments.
The audience was prompted the following question , “What are your challenges you are facing when working with your Data Centre?” Ageing infrastructure, Reliability/Availability, and the Ability to meet demand in Power and Cooling/Capacity were the topmost challenges indicated by the audience.
Mr. Wilson Loo, Deputy Director of IT and Operations from the Jurong Town Corporation, expresses interest on the topic of cooling within the DC. He asks how a cooling unit is managed separately, if it is connected to the central building systems. Mr. Ronald Schepers, VP of Schneider Electric Singapore, states that ageing data centers is a global challenge. Due to higher densities and loading per rack, the existing infrastructure is not efficient. These DCs are being strained with the ever advancing technology.
Consolidation and virtualization is one solution which BCA uses. This solves the issue of ageing infrastructure. “Newer infrastructure is more powerful, efficient, and provides more benefits,” says Mr. Ang Kian Seng, Group Director Technology Development Group from BCA.
Creating the capacity for the amount of data coming in is a challenge. Mr. Willy Lee, Deputy Director Partnerships & Transitions of the Ministry of Home Affairs Office of Chief Science and Technology, says ageing infrastructure must meet a growing demand for space. Mr. Christopher Chan, Assistant Director of Technical Services Information Technology at the People’s Association, believes that not-so-modern infrastructure is tough to measure without a major overhaul.
To this, Mr. Boorer raises a point that moving ageing data centers is costly. This could be reduced by virtualizing data centers. Organisations strive to make changes to their data centers without disrupting the service. The challenge due to the monolithic design of ageing infrastructure provides a major obstacle. Mr. Pe adds that current methods of measurement may not support this ageing technology.
A concern raised by Ong Chee Wee, Manager (Data Centre & Network Services) & Chief Information Security Officer at Nanyang Polytechnic, was that end users concerns on the long term sustainability of these data centers. The Singapore government has now mandated the adoption of SS564 and the BCA-IDA’s Green Mark by 2016.
Mrs. Koh Kok Theng, Director of IT at the Housing and Development Board, explains that the PUE standard is met at HDB. Mrs. Koh believes that there is always room to improve. “While making changes to the data centres, it is crucial to keep the operations running,” says Mrs. Koh. To this point, she asks the following questions: How do we bring down the PUE without interrupting the operations? and How much can we do to improve PUE? Mr. Boorer believes that existing facilities do not allow for many upgrades without disruption. He suggests more modular DCs as a solution to decrease PUE overtime.
Mr. Sagar raises several questions that he suggests all delegates to answer, including:
· How do I manage my data center?
· Do I dispose of my old data center all together?
· As energy prices rise, what resources are our next options? and
· Is the cost of data center running important, if so, to whom?
While delegates discuss their own data center compliance, Mr. Mak Weng Kin, Assistant Director Technical Services at the Ministry of National Development, says he was getting the infrastructure ready to meet green benchmarks. To that Mr. Boorer asks, how relevant was the underlying standards? Mr. Joshua Au, Head of the Data Centre at the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, says that an underlying issue of the situation is how to ensure that we meet these green mark objectives with growing data demand.
Mr. Ramachandran Narayanan, Deputy Director of the National Library Board, represents one of the first agencies to meet the SS564 standard. He says that in 2009, he helped create a clean slate of infrastructure. He cleared space through virtualization and consolidation of the DCs. Mr. Narayanan says that each agency should concentrate on improving their PUE against themselves.
BCA-IDA’s Green Mark data center benchmark is above the current international standards, Mr. Sagar exclaims. To that, Mr. Roy Chee, Deputy Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, adds that the BCA-IDA is offering initial PUE assessment free of charge. This is something that agencies can take advantage of to be better informed of their PUE rating.
Real savings to the agency must be proven to support the case of green DCs. Prompted by a delegate, Mr. Pe estimates 7 years of ROI on installing green DCs. Opportunity cost to take on these projects is worth the investment, says Mr. Boorer. There is a worry that we may face an energy crisis and not be sufficiently prepared with the right DC infrastructure. Mr. Tan Hoon Chiang, CIO of the National Institute for Education, worries that some agencies do not know the reason for PUE regulations. He encourages the other delegates at the table to help shift the mindset as our energy is not unlimited.
In facilitating a productive dialogue on what challenges are faced, delegates were able to be presented with real time solutions to the challenges presented. Having those with experience working with green data centres in attendance, demonstrates the sheer possibility of meeting these PUE standards. Instead of harping on complications faced when moving to greener data centres, delegates were feeling more optimistic at the end of the session. Walking out of the session, delegates were praising the format of the event. They were happy to interact with their counterparts in different agencies across the Singapore Government. Lastly, they were delighted to know that they weren’t the only ones facing obstacles in establishing greener and more sustainable data centres.
The end point is that energy has its limits. We are approaching an era of greater energy consumption and the increase of data. Greater attention must be paid towards meeting the PUE standards and green data centre upkeep. The mindset is starting to shift towards creating a more sustainable and efficient future in data centre upkeep. PUE standards are already set for Singapore. The next step is to increase awareness of standards and advocate for better compliance. Then, we can expect a future where we are reaching far beyond the set PUE standards to provide the next age in green data centres.