Alibaba Cloud adopts eco-friendly approach to advancing data center technology

July 10, 2017

With temperatures falling as low as -38℃, the harsh winter in Hebei Province, China makes outdoor work impossible for up to six months of the year. But it is these adverse climate conditions that also make possible the unique cooling system used in Alibaba Cloud’s North China Data Center.

Engineers introduce clean and natural cold air into the server room, through a damper and valves, to keep the racks of equipment cool. With this cleverly designed natural ventilation and cooling model, free cooling becomes viable and reduces energy consumption for cooling by 59%, compared with an average data center. The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio at this data center is just 1.13, far lower than the average PUE of 2.5 in China.

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, is one of the world’s leading public cloud computing service providers and is the largest cloud provider in China, with about 40% market share, according to IDC report. Its North China Data Center alone has the capacity to serve two million small and medium enterprises.

Alibaba Cloud strives to advance technology to meet surging demand for e-commerce, cloud computing, networks and big data services, but believes that technology should not develop at the expense of nature. This green data center represents Alibaba Cloud’s relentless effort to achieve a harmonious balance between nature, cities and technology.

Back in 2015, Alibaba Cloud built the first green data center in China to use water-cooling technology at Qiandao Lake, near Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province where the company is headquartered.

The stable temperature of the lake water allows Alibaba Cloud’s East China Data Center to benefit from free cooling for 90% of its operating time, driving down energy consumption by more than 80% compared to mechanical cooling. At the East China Data Center, purified lake water flows through concealed tubes to deliver its cooling effect to the servers. When it leaves the center, the water flows through a 2.5km long open canal through the city, enhancing the city landscape, before running back to the lake.

The pursuit of energy efficiency does not stop there. Alibaba Cloud has recently launched research projects on immersion cooling, a practice by which servers are submerged in a thermally, but not electrically conductive liquid, with final PUE potentially reaching as low as 1.0. Immersion cooling is not only the most energy-efficient cooling means yet known to the industry, but, in the absence of air, vapour, dust or fan vibration, is also the one that allows the server to work at its highest efficiency and stability.

Building eco-friendly data centers is part of Alibaba Cloud’s approach to environmental conservation and sustainable operations. Data centers running on clean and renewable resources will not only change the world with their vast computing power, but can also help to protect our precious natural resources for the long term.

Join the webinar: Greening Internet Data Centres

On July 12, 2017 from 10:30-12:00 CEST, the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency will host a webinar with Alibaba, Danfoss and Huawei to put data centres under the microscope and explore the opportunities and successful models for improving data centre performance through energy efficiency design and technologies.

Click here to read more and sign up for the webinar.