Alternative to power-hungry data centre coolers

As data centres grow in popularity, there increased pressure on data centre operators to find ways of improving efficiencies

March 26, 2010

As data centres grow in popularity, there increased pressure on data centre operators to find ways of improving efficiencies. Organisations are increasing utilising data centres for secured storage purposes and to facilitate the move towards cloud computing. One of the biggest costs of running a data centre however, is the cost of cooling the facilities. In South Africa in particular, where electricity costs will be increasing in excess of 25 percent per annum over the next three years, this is becoming a real issue.

The Mauritian government believes there is an alternative to electrical cooling, which could save data centre operators millions per annum in cooling costs. As a result of its geographic location, Mauritius can utilise the ocean itself to facilitate a new method of cooling for data centres.

Says Raju Jaddoo, Managing Director at the Mauritian Board of Investment (BOI): “The Mauritius Eco-Park is in the process of developing a system that uses sea water air conditioning to cool data centres.” The concept taps deep water currents that bring colder water, utilising this instead of electricity to provide cooling. “This technology means that data centres can bring down their cooling costs by 50% percent.”

The Mauritius Eco-Park is a joint initiative between the Mauritian Government and private sector. A 212ha site has been acquired and the proof of concept has been developed. “The Eco-Park will build a system of pipes that extend two miles offshore,” says Jaddoo. The pipe system will run roughly 1000 metres beneath the surface of the ocean to allow it to tap into the much colder water. “This cold water will then be transported back to the data centre complex and used to cool the data centres instead of electricity consuming coolers.”

The technology is not new, although this is the first time that it is being used in the data centre environment. “For us as a government it just makes sense – we have the natural resources as an island surrounded by ocean, so we are putting it to good economic use,” says Jaddoo. Whilst the initial outlay of putting the pipe system in place is relatively high, some industries have shown long-term energy savings in cooling requirements of between 75 and 90 percent.

“Mauritius is also benefiting from the increased activity in undersea cables,” says Jaddoo. “With the new bandwidth capacity that is now available as a result of the current and future undersea cables, we will foresee that Mauritius will have the same level of capacity as Singapore and Hong Kong by 2012,” he says. “This will ensure that access to Mauritian hosted data centres will have the capacity they require, making it an extremely favourable data centre destination.”

This coupled with the apparent ease of doing business, creates an environment for foreigners to build and host their data centres in Mauritius, knowing that its alternative cooling mechanisms will not only result in a reduced carbon footprint, but massive cost-savings around electricity as well.