Microsoft Cuts Data Centre Waste Water To Zero

Microsoft has decreased the overall usage of water – a traditional component in cooling systems – in four of its data centres, and cut the amount of waste water they produce to zero.

These efficiency achievements are the result of work conducted by the Data Centre Advanced Development (DCAD) team, which aims to minimise all data centre resource requirements, including power consumption, water usage and carbon emissions.

The company has also outlined plans to get rid of the backup diesel generators, and confirmed its commitment to developing Data Plants – data centres with on-site power production.

Closing the tap

According to Brian Janous, utility architect from the DCAD team, Microsoft’s latest air-cooled data centres (located in Iowa, Virginia and Washington in the US, Dublin in the UK) are designed to use 1 to3 percent of the water required by a traditional data centre.

Old-school, server farms cooled by air-conditioning units can use as much as 44.7 million liters of water every year, with 11.18 million liters becoming waste water. In comparison, modern air-cooled data centres built by Microsoft only use around one million liters annually. Currently, the only water loss in these new systems is through evaporation, resulting in no waste water.

“These innovations in Microsoft data centre efficiency evolution have served as a model to help others in the industry achieve similar reductions in power and water usage in their latest designs,” writes Janous on the Microsoft Global Foundations Services blog.

The utility architect also re-iterated Microsoft’s commitment, announced in May, that it would be carbon neutral from July this year.

As for the Data Plants, the Redmond giant hopes the concept will help it reduce dependence on traditional energy infrastructure. “We expect our work in this area to reveal opportunities to reduce costs, improve reliability, and reduce emissions associated with our data centre operations,” explains Janous.

At the moment, Microsoft data centres still get nearly all of the required electricity from the power grid. In cases when they need to be taken off the grid for maintenance and repair, it is customary to use backup diesel generators to keep the operations running.

These generators are “inefficient and costly to operate”, and the company has announced plans to explore alternative energy backup options, such as generators powered by cleaner-burning natural gas. The ultimate goal is to get rid of backup generators altogether.

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Max Smolaks

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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