Microsoft has just launched a virtual data centre tour, showcasing the company’s approach to sustainable operations.

The virtual tour allows users to navigate through various rooms in the data centre, with click-throughs to educational tools such as infographics and 3D models.

Noelle Walsh, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft

According to Noelle Walsh, CVP of Cloud Operations & Innovation at Microsoft, “This rapidly increasing shift towards digitisation is the backdrop and inspiration for the Microsoft Virtual Data Center.”

Microsoft’s data centres are responsible for storing and managing the data of the Microsoft Cloud, including services that enable individuals, teams and businesses to work and learn remotely. With the COVID pandemic testing cloud computing globally, the organisation claims it is growing to meet current and future demand.

“We’ve announced 14 new regions in the past year across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the US — more than we’ve ever announced in this time span. In Asia specifically, we’ve announced four new data centre regions in Taiwan, China, North Indonesia and the New Zealand market,” says Walsh.

Data Centre Sustainability 

Research suggests that data centres have become one of the world’s biggest electricity consumers.

According to Microsoft’s General Manager of Energy, Brain Janous, the company is innovating to improve its data centres’ sustainability, in alignment with the company’s goal to be carbon negative by 2030.

Brian Janous, General Manager of Energy, Microsoft

“Some of the technologies we need to meet our ambitious goals haven’t even been developed yet, which is why innovation and sustainability pillars go hand in hand.”

According to Janous, Microsoft’s sustainability commitments include:

  • Shift to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025
  • Move to zero-waste operations by 2030. This includes diverting 90 per cent of solid waste from landfills
  • 100 per cent recyclable packaging
  • 75 per cent diversion of construction and demolition waste
  • Water positive by 2030.

Generators at data centres also often rely on the use of diesel fuels. Microsoft claims it is looking to alternative energy sources to reduce reliance on diesel. 

According to Osvaldo Morales, CTO, Cloud Operations & Innovation at Microsoft, “The most immediate opportunity to reduce the use of diesel fuels is to secure alternative low-carbon fuel sources for our generators. In the future, batteries with longer duration could replace the role diesel generators play today. We’re also looking ahead at how we can source viable green energy for backup power through hydrogen fuel cells and looking at reliable high voltage distribution to remove our dependency from backup power altogether.”

Last year Microsoft piloted what it called a “world first” hydrogen fuel cell that powered data centres for 48 consecutive hours. 

According to Christian Belady, Microsoft VP and Distinguished Engineer, “This sets the stage for having backup power generation with water as the only emissions.” 

The company is also making strides in liquid cooling technologies as well as experimenting with operating at higher temperatures for longer periods of time in an effort to reduce water usage. 

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