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Sharing the latest improvements to efficiency in Microsoft’s datacenters

Inlägg på 2 november, 2022

Corporate Vice President, Cloud Operations + Innovation

In April, I published a blog that explained how we define and measure energy and water use at our datacenters, and how we are committed to continuous improvements.

Now, in the lead up to COP27, the global climate conference to be held in Egypt, I am pleased to provide a number of updates on how we’re progressing in making our datacenters more efficient across areas such as waste, renewables, and ecosystems. You can also visit Azure Sustainability—Sustainable Technologies | Microsoft Azure to explore this further.

Localized fact sheets in 28 regions

To share important information about the impact of our datacenters regionally with our customers, we have published localized fact sheets in 28 regions across the globe. These fact sheets provide a wide range of information and details about many different aspects of our datacenters and their operations.

A screenshot of a globe.

A review of PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) and WUE (Water Usage Effectiveness)

A factsheet with data around Microsoft's Ireland datacenter region.

PUE is an industry metric that measures how efficiently a datacenter consumes and uses the energy that powers a datacenter, including the operation of systems like powering, cooling, and operating the servers, data networks and lights. The closer the PUE number is to “1,” the more efficient the use of energy.
While local environment and infrastructure can affect how PUE is calculated, there are also slight variations across providers.

Here is the simplest way to think about PUE:

A picture of Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) calculation.

WUE is another key metric relating to the efficient and sustainable operations of our datacenters and is a crucial aspect as we work towards our commitment to be water positive by 2030. WUE is calculated by dividing the number of liters of water used for humidification and cooling by the total annual amount of power (measured in kWh) needed to operate our datacenter IT equipment.

A picture of a Water Usage Effectiveness calculation.

In addition to PUE and WUE, below are key highlights across carbon, water, and waste initiatives at our datacenters.

Datacenter efficiency in North and South America

As I illustrated in April, our newest generation of datacenters have a design PUE of 1.12; this includes our Chile datacenter that is under construction. We are constantly focused on improving our energy efficiency, for example in California, our San Jose datacenters will be cooled with an indirect evaporative cooling system using reclaimed water all year and zero fresh water. Because the new datacenter facilities will be cooled with reclaimed water, they will have a WUE of 0.00 L/kWh in terms of freshwater usage.

In addition, as we continue our journey to achieve zero waste by 2030, we are proud of the progress we are making with our Microsoft Circular Centers. These centers sit adjacent to a Microsoft datacenter and process decommissioned cloud servers and hardware. Our teams sort and intelligently channel the components and equipment to optimize, reuse or repurpose.

In October, we launched a Circular Center in Chicago, Illinois that has the potential capacity to process up to 12,000 servers per month for reuse, diverting up to 144,000 servers annually. We plan to open a Circular Center in Washington state early next year and have plans for Circular Centers in Texas, Iowa, and Arizona to further optimize our supply chain and reduce waste.

Furthermore, our team has successfully completed an important water reuse project at one of our datacenters. This treatment facility, the first of its kind in Washington state and over 10 years in the making, will process water for reuse by local industries, including datacenters, decreasing the need for potable water for datacenter cooling.

Innovative solutions in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

This winter Europeans face the possibility of an energy crisis, and we have made a number of investments in optimizing energy efficiency in our datacenters to ensure that we are operating our facilities as effectively as possible. Datacenters are the backbone of modern society and as such it is important that we continue to provide critical services to the industries that need us most in a way that constantly mitigates energy consumption.

Across our datacenters in EMEA, we have made steady progress across carbon, waste, water, and ecosystems. We are committed to shifting to 100 percent renewable energy supply by 2025, meaning that we will have power purchase agreements for green energy contracted for 100 percent of carbon emitting electricity consumed by all our data centers, buildings, and campuses. This will add additional gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid, increasing energy capacity. We're helping to add clean capacity to the grid by signing purchase agreements for more than 5 gigawatts of renewable energy around the world. Those agreements include more than 15 individual deals in Europe spanning Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, and Spain.

In Finland, we recently announced an important heat reuse project that will take excess heat from our datacenters and transfer that heat to the local districts’ heating systems that can be used for both domestic and commercial purposes.

To reduce waste from our datacenters in EMEA, the Circular Center we opened in Amsterdam in 2020, which has since already delivered an 83 percent reuse of end-of-life datacenter assets and components. This is progress towards our target of 90 percent reuse and recycling of all servers and components for all cloud hardware by 2025. In addition, in January 2022, we opened a Circular Center in Dublin, Ireland, and have plans to open another Circular Center in Sweden to serve the region.

As we continue to seek out efficiencies in our operations, recently we turned to nature for inspiration, to understand how much of the natural ecosystem we could replenish on the site of a datacenter, essentially integrating the datacenter into nature with the goal of renewing and revitalizing the surrounding area so that we can restore and create a pathway to provide regenerative value for the local community and environment. In the Netherlands we have begun construction of a lowland forested area around the datacenter as well as forested wetland. This was done to support the growth of native plants to mirror a healthy, resilient ecosystem and support biodiversity, improve storm water control and prevent erosion.

Rendering of a biomimicry project in the Netherlands showing a concept of using nature to cover the datacenter. Image of an actual datacenter.

Updates in Asia Pacific

Finally, I’d like to highlight some of the sustainability investments we have made across Asia Pacific. In June 2022, we launched our Singapore Circular Center that is capable of processing up to 3,000 servers per month for reuse, or 36,000 servers annually. We have plans to open additional Circular Centers in Australia and South Korea in fiscal year 2025 and beyond. Across our datacenters in APAC, we have formed partnerships with local energy providers for renewable energy that is sourced from wind, solar, and hydro power and we have plans to further these partnerships and investments in renewable energy. In our forthcoming datacenter region in New Zealand, we have signed an agreement that will enable Microsoft to power all of its datacenters with 100 percent renewable energy from the day it opens.

Innovating to design the hyperscale datacenter of the future

What these examples from across our global datacenter portfolio show is our ongoing commitment to make our global Microsoft datacenters more sustainable and efficient, enabling our customers to do more with less.

Our objective moving forward is to continue providing transparency across the entire datacenter lifecycle about how we infuse principles of reliability, sustainability, and innovation at each step of the datacenter design, construction, and operations process.

  • Design: How do we ensure we design for reliability, efficiency, and sustainability, to help reduce our customers' scope three emissions?
  • Construction: How do we reduce embodied carbon and create a reliable supply chain?
  • Operation: How do we infuse innovative green technologies to decarbonize and operate to the efficient design standards?
  • Decommissioning: How do we recycle and reuse materials in our datacenters?
  • Community: How do we partner with the community and operate as good neighbors?

We have started by sharing datacenter region-specific data around carbon, water, waste, ecosystems, and community development and we will continue to provide updates as Microsoft makes further investments globally.

Learn more

You can learn more about our global datacenter footprint across the 60+ datacenter regions by visiting datacenters.microsoft.com.