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We'll Always Have Waste

F.Y. Teng | Aug. 3, 2010
A discussion of the reality of data centres powered by manure from dairy cows, and the potential of human waste as a renewable source of energy.

That is the overall picture of the data centre and our ultimate goal, which is to answer the question: Can we build a data centre that meets exacting high-quality service level agreement obligations?

The example Ive just given. Ive given this to my colleagues in Singapore as well. Singapore is in a great location where it can provide high-quality data centre services across Asia.

Now, lets imagine a taxi driver in Singapore who would like to schedule his CNG [compressed natural gas] filling or an autoriksha driver in India who wants to schedule his CNG filling. He would look for a service that he would like to get from the Cloud or from a data centre. His requirement may not be critical. If his requirement is not critical, can we use one of the sources, where we can queue up the job. Noncritical workloadscan we make them wait for the sun to come up, for example? In other words, can we take a service level agreement, and managing the finer points of it, not only do demand side management but also match demand to the right source every time?

This is the ultimate goal. We believe that if we do it, we will preserve our resources.

Think of Singapore, its a well planned nation. In this context, available energy is very critical and so is water. Theres clearly a resource constraint with either.

So in this context, a data centre that uses local resources as much as possible and that addresses workloads that come from within Singapore or outside of Singapore based on the criticality of the workload will make sure that we make use of the right kind of energy to service the workload. This is what we are examining closely now.

When do you expect to run a working model of the manure-powered data centre you described earlier?
We believe from the design point of view, we have looked at it thoroughly. From a blueprint perspective all the technologies we are using are right off the shelf. If a business opportunity presented itself, we felt that co-locating a particular data centre with a particular dairy farm made sense, and we could convince the business to colocate it in such a condition where manure is availableit would be as early as today.

Where do you see this taking off in a big way the most across the world?
Ill tell you of two classes. One emerged very quickly after we published this paper. We published our ASME [American Society of Mechanical Engineers] paper last week [at the ASME 2010 4th International Conference on Energy Sustainability, May 17, 22, 2010].

Since then, weve had immense response, which shows that the opportunity in the US exists because of large dairy farms. But I think the biggest opportunity will really come in growth economies like India and China. (As for this corner of the world, I havent studied Singapore enough to see where youd locate it for various reasons.)


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