NSCC Singapore was established in 2015 and manages Singapore’s first national petascale facility with available high-performance computing (HPC) resources. As a National Research Infrastructure funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF), NSCC supports the HPC research needs of the public and private sectors in Singapore. This includes research institutes, institutes of higher learning, government agencies and companies.
This amount of computing requires a large amount of energy. With rising costs and environmental mandates, this energy has to be managed efficiently and power needs to be saved wherever possible. In this context, the NUS NSCC i4.0 DC – a Tropical Supercomputing Data Center initiative managed to win the W.Media Southeast Asia 2022 award for Energy Efficient Innovation. NSCC as a national research HPC infrastructure plays a part in exemplifying best-of-breed infrastructure and pioneering efficiency solutions ahead of the curve of the wider DC industry.
In a conversation with W.Media, Professor Tan Tin Wee, Chief Executive, NSCC Singapore, outlines how its data center achieved innovation in energy efficiency at a time of rapid digitization.
Q: What prompted you to enter the (W.Media) Awards?
A: NSCC’s new purpose-built data center (DC), which houses Singapore’s latest national supercomputer, is Southeast Asia’s first DC designed to support supercomputing in a tropical climate. This makes the W.Media awards a suitable platform for NSCC to showcase our sustainable, energy efficient and innovative solutions on a regional stage, and to create awareness for the unique DC initiatives in Singapore and the Asia Pacific region. These include an air conditioner-free data center which uses ambient air and hot water direct-to-processor cooling with zero evaporative loss to cool its hot supercomputers. Other features include Digital Twin, IoT sensors and phase-change rear-door rack-level heat exchangers.
Q: What innovation has NSCC adopted to achieve energy efficiency goals?
A: The new NSCC data center adopts a number of unique power saving features. It is a specially-designed tropical data center which leverages a hot hall, ambient temperature water-dry cooler system. The 300 sqm, double-height DC is also computer room air conditioner (CRAC)-less- meaning that the main compute server hall does not employ air-conditioning to cool the system, which is unlike most conventional data centers. The system also uses special designed-in-Singapore technologies like the Cool Hall rear-door heat exchange (RDHX) with the patented KoolLogix Thermosiphon gas system, which further helps to increase energy efficiency by better dissipating heat.
Q: What in your view are the challenges of constructing ‘smart data centers?
A: Modern ‘smart’ data centers are generally equipped with intelligent monitoring / AI-assisted operations, advanced DCIM and leveraging Digital Twin technology with integrated IoT sensors, data analysis with CFD and AI, to facilitate controls and optimize real-time data center operations. Such additional tools and electronics require increased energy resources adding to the already high-power usage of data centers. One of the greatest challenges is being able to tap into more sustainable and carbon-friendlier energy sources such as renewable solar energy supplies. In the absence of abundant renewable energy sources in Singapore, NSCC relies on unique, innovative data center designs to reduce the carbon footprint but is also exploring other alternative solutions. Our exploratory decarbonization initiatives include new concepts like recycling excess cool energy from industrial processes such as LNG or leveraging international partnerships to tap on carbon-friendly infrastructure and energy resources.
Q: What value do you see as the value of the Awards to the Asia Pacific data center industry?
A: The awards not only recognizes individual achievements like NSCC’s but also shines the spotlight on the innovations and advancements taking place across the wider data center industry landscape. It also provides HPC centers and businesses with the opportunity to glean best practices from one another and cohesively work towards making data centers more carbon friendly.