Is South East Asia on the cusp of a green data centre boom?
The joint study, which was released on Friday, surveyed more than 200 industry experts across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia earlier this year. agreed that SEA would display significant data usage growth over the next five years, leading to a significant boom in data centre construction throughout the region.
The report also highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the SEA data centre industry, with 96% of experts surveyed claiming that the pandemic had increased data demand and underscored the need for widespread digital transformation in the SEA economy.
The report, titled , notes however, that although the SEA region shows strong promise as a global data centre hot spot, the increasingly urgent need to decarbonise the global economy and shift to a more sustainable approach is an essential step in the development of the region’s data centre landscape.
"Southeast Asia is home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and its rapid development will accelerate the demand for data services," commented . "Against this backdrop, it is crucial that data center providers find a way to meet this need while ensuring they are playing a part in helping countries meet their climate targets."
The study emphasised the fact that, with 35%-40% of data centre energy consumption dedicated to cooling needs, sustainable and innovative steps (like liquid and free cooling) need to be taken if SEA is to emerge as a sustainable data centre hub.
“We believe cooling technology will be a game-changer for data centers, especially in Southeast Asia's tropical climate,” noted , adding that the report’s findings align closely with Digital Realty’s own sustainability goals as one of the world’s largest data centre operators.
The report noted that, while Singapore remains the South East Asian capital of the data centre industry, with an estimated 60% of the region’s total data centre supply, both Malaysia and Indonesia have emerged as “rising stars” due to their relative ease of access compared to Singapore, as well as having young, tech-savvy populations, which Eco-Business estimates will drive significant growth in the e-commerce and tech industries over the next few years.
"While Singapore's stable, pro-business environment, low-risk geographic features and abundant connectivity options make it an attractive destination for data center players, the country needs to remain competitive in the face of rising competition. Singapore has a tremendous opportunity to fortify its regional leadership and build upon its position as a sustainable global data center hub in the post-pandemic world."
NUS and NTU launch cooling project for tropical data centres
The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), have announced a project in an attempt to source and develop new cooling solutions for data centres located in tropical areas. According to the companies, the programme costs S$23mn (US$17.1mn) and plans to research, build and test innovative and sustainable cooling solutions.
The Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT)
The NUS and NTU say that the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) will act as a research point and innovation hub for the project. Facebook, along with the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), is also involved, providing funding for the programme. Further support from other partners includes the Infocomm Media Development Authority, Ascenix, CoolestDC Keppel Data Centres, Red Dot Analytics, and New Media Express.
Commenting on working with the companies, Facebook Vice President of Infrastructure, Alex Johnson, said: “We are excited about the opportunity to partner NUS, NTU, Keppel Data Centres and the CoolestSG community to develop innovative solutions that reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of the average data centre, particularly those located in tropical areas like Singapore”.
The NTU and NUS highlight that Singapore houses 60% of Southeast Asia’s total data centre market, and aims to supply 12% of the country’s total energy needs by 2030. This results in the need to reduce the carbon footprints and power consumption of data centres, meaning more innovative cooling solutions are required, the NTU and NUS said.
Professor Chen Thuan, Deputy President of Research & Technology at the NUS, said: “Data centres are a critical enabler of the digital economy, but the average data centre can exert a significant environmental burden. Aligned with RIE 2025, sustainability is a key research focus of NUS, and our researchers have deep expertise in developing integrated solutions for tropical, urban and Asian settings”.
How will the Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) help to provide cooling solutions?
According to the NUS and NTU, the STDCT will be built using equipment such as a novel desiccant-coated heat exchanger and a StatePoint Liquid Cooling System (SPLC) designed by both Nortek Air Solutions and Facebook. The institutions also say they will adopt chip-level hybrid cooling to ensure servers remain cool.
Furthermore, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will aim to manage the “smart operations” of the technologies so that the data centres are water and power efficient, as well as able to preserve equipment and servers.
The NTU and NSU said in a joint statement the combination of the cooling technologies could reduce energy consumption “significantly” and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25%, compared to traditional air-cooled data centres. If adopted industry-wide across the entire tropical region, the energy usage of the data centre industry could potentially be lowered by at least 40%”, the companies said.
The STDCT is expected to be operational by 1 October 2021.