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March 17, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 2:05pm

How Europe is turning datacentres green

A European consortium has embarked on an ambitious project, GreenDataNet, that aims to make datacentre technology more environmentally friendly. Duncan MacRae finds out how.

By Duncan Macrae

The European Commission has awarded a €2.9m grant to a consortium of manufacturers, users, and academics to develop new technologies to build smarter, more energy-efficient datacentres.

The GreenDataNet project is led by power management company Eaton, working together with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Nissan, ICTroom, Credit Suisse, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission(CEA), and the University of Trento (UNITN).

The GreenDataNet project will develop state-of-the-art technologies that will allow urban datacentres to reach 80% of renewable power use and decrease their average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) from an average of 1.6-2.0 today to less than 1.3. GreenDataNet will enable energy monitoring and optimisation of IT, power, cooling and storage at three levels: servers and racks, individual datacentres and networks of datacentres.

To further reduce the need for grid power, GreenDataNet will also work on the integration of local photovoltaic energy in combination with an innovative, large-scale storage solution that will facilitate the integration of datacentres into smart grids. Within this project, second-life electric vehicle Li-ion batteries will be investigated as a more advantageous solution for datacentres to become actual smart grid nodes.

About the consortium

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Eaton is a power management company with 2013 sales of $22.0 billion. Eaton provides energy-efficient solutions that help its customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power more efficiently, safely and sustainably. Eaton’s role on the GreenDataNet project involves
co-ordinating activities, providing technical and administrative leadership of the consortium and its various research and development activities. Eaton will also take care of specifying power distribution architectures and providing technical expertise related software, virtualization technologies and airflow management.

"The growth of datacentres has leapt in recent times, and the responsible thing for users, manufacturers and academics to do is to make sure that use is as efficient and sustainable as possible. This project will look beyond the immediate needs of datacentre operators to the collective savings and opportunities that interconnected datacentres and urban grids provide – not just to the industry, but to the community as a whole." – Cyrille Brisson, VP EMEA for Power Quality, Eaton


In four decades of existence, EFPL has established itself among the world’s best institutions. In 2009, EPFL was ranked 1st in Europe and 15th worldwide in the Shanghai ranking of engineering, technology and computer science. For the GreenDataNet project, EPFL will lead two important activities- defining the most appropriate computing server and software architectures which can lead to the most energy-efficient datacentre design, and developing the software management system for servers and groups of racks which will optimise power consumption of the overall system.

"EcoCloud at EPFL is a research centre founded in 2011 to pioneer and innovate technologies at the intersection of Big Data and energy efficiency. A key research pillar at EcoCloud is the tighter integration of IT platforms (both software and hardware) with the infrastructure to enable holistic optimisation of energy in a datacentre. This aligns perfectly with the aims of the GreenDataNet project and at EcoCloud we are excited to see what we can all achieve together over the next three years." – Babak Falsafi, director, EcoCloud and Professor of CS, PARSA, EPFL



A pioneer in zero-emission mobility, Nissan has been making history since 2010 with the introduction of the LEAF, the first affordable, mass-market, pure-electric vehicle. For GreenDataNet, Nissan will provide EV Lithium-ion batteries to be integrated as the storage solution. Nissan will also take part in the development, management and demonstration of the storage part of the datacentre.

"We are delighted to see Nissan’s cutting edge batteries used in energy storage projects like the GreenDataNet initiative. We are frequently asked what happens to batteries at the end of a vehicle’s life and this project shows they can be reused, not just recycled. Although we won’t have batteries to recycle any time soon due to the reliability of our technology, it is important we are prepared for when that time comes in the future. Nissan is pleased to be working with a consortium to demonstrate that electric cars like the Nissan LEAF offer more than just transport, they are also a key part of a zero emission society." – Redmer Van der Meer, Director for Corporate Planning and Electric Vehicle Programme, Nissan

Credit Suisse

Credit SuisseIT globally operates datacentres with over 26,500 servers and a storage capacity of over 28,000 Terabytes. For GreenDataNet, Credit Suisse will provide knowhow in maintaining a large datacentre infrastructure across many generations of servers and other legacy to modern IT Infrastructure. Credit Suisse may also provide utilized datacentre space to test measurement equipment developed by EPFL and GreenDataNet.

"In light of rapidly evolving technology, operating a datacentre in a sustainable way requires making continuous improvements to keep up with the latest developments. For years, Credit Suisse has been committed to operating sustainably, and we believe we can support the GreenDataNetProject in a number of ways, including providing for better usability. With our support for GreenDataNet, we show a commitment not only to running sustainable and green datacentres at Credit Suisse but to engaging in a broader dialogue on the topic and sharing our expertise. At the same time, this engagement provides an opportunity for us to find new ways of running our own datacentre environment." – Marcel Ledergerber, VP, datacentre facilities, Design and Planning, Credit Suisse.



ICTroom is a leading, specialized datacentre consulting and construction company. ICTroom will contribute to the specification of urban datacentres and design specifications of datacentre models and software models, including the monitoring and management of energy flows optimisation. ICT room will also be involved in the demonstration and validation stage of the project, which will deploy the project innovations in real datacentres.

"We are very excited to be part of this consortium of experts and in this way to be able to contribute in solving social issues such as energy efficiency. The use of energy-saving technologies in the datacentre industry has always been listed high on our priority list. Efficiency is part of our DNA." – Sander Nieuwmeijer, Founding Partner, ICT room


CEA is the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives). CEA will manage the power supply of datacentres at local level, considering the prediction of consumption and local availability of renewable energies, and optimised management of the batteries. The organisation will also work on the aggregation of a network of datacentres into a global demand response system.

"Our aim is to achieve a maximum share of solar energy to power the electricity market. It is therefore a great pleasure for us to contribute with our expertise to this exciting project. The first step to achieve this maximum share is efficient energy management in order to match the electricity demand to the solar power available. For demands that cannot be matched this way, we have to go to the next step and integrate batteries. In this project, we seek the optimum mix of these two strategies." – Dr. Jens Merten, programme manager, CEA

University of Trento

The University of Trento (UNITN) will lead several important tasks within the project, including the definition of energy models for managing smart grids which power residential and urban areas populated by small and medium-size datacentres. The University will also develop smart energy grid control tools optimised according to forecasting and state estimations.

"With GreenDataNet we want to demonstrate the future of urban datacentres, in terms of intelligent energy management, cooperation with other datacentres and smart grid interaction. Conventional and centralized datacentres will move towards decentralised solutions in urban grids and will play a key role in the energy balance of modern cities." – Davide Brunelli, assistant Professor, University of Trento



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