How Microsoft plans to make its data centers "green"

Climate experts around the world agree that if we can’t dramatically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, our planet will face catastrophic consequences. Microsoft has been operating with zero carbon emissions since 2012, and in January 2020, brad Smith announced the company’s intention to switch to negative emissions by 2030. Of course, this will take time, dedication, and a lot of small steps that will combine into something bigger.

As the cloud business grows, so does its impact on the environment. Many companies aim for zero net emissions, but Microsoft goes even further: the company doesn’t just reduce emissions to zero, but aims to remove the carbon it has been emitting into the atmosphere since 1975 in order to truly go negative on carbon emissions.

A large part of the transition to negative values means a complete change in the method of operation of the data centers. Processing centers already use some new cooling methods, including outdoor cooling and adiabatic cooling. These methods have helped significantly reduce water and energy consumption in Data centers, but they are not enough. Currently, data centers and their backup power systems depend on fossil fuels, including diesel.

Against the background of increased interest in the power supply of peripheral data centers, Microsoft said that it was able to provide power to server racks with a capacity of 250 KW from hydrogen fuel cells for 48 hours. By 2030, the company plans to replace all existing diesel generators in its Data centers with eco-friendly hydrogen elements.

Promising technologies that will help reduce the power consumption of data centers are discussed below.

Submersible (immersion) cooling

According to forecasts, liquid immersion cooling will not only help eliminate water consumption, but also reduce energy consumption by at least 5-15 percent.

As an additional advantage, this closed-loop cooling system reduces the number of server racks and the area occupied by the data center.

Uninterruptible power supply network batteries

Large battery modules can work not only for the needs of the data center, but also accumulate electricity at a cheap night rate, so that it can then be returned to the power supply system at an expensive day rate. THESE batteries store energy with an efficiency close to 90 percent and can smooth out interruptions associated with the operation of renewable energy sources (solar panels, wind turbines, etc.).

As this technology is further explored, it is possible to increase the battery life from a few minutes to several hours, potentially using these long-acting batteries as replacements for traditional backup generators.

Eco-friendly backup power supply

Synthetic diesel fuel causes less damage to the environment and can even be used in diesel generators without any changes to their design, reducing emissions to the atmosphere. Hydrogen fuel cells offer another green backup energy option for data centers, and they are almost twice as efficient as internal combustion engines.

The only thing that these elements emit into the atmosphere is water vapor, which is captured and reused.

Conclusion

According to a 2018 study, workloads in Azure can be 98 percent more efficient in terms of carbon emissions than when working in traditional on-premises data centers, so by moving your workloads to Azure, you are contributing to the ecology of our planet.