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Q&A: Switch’s Amsterdam Technology Incubator

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The exterior of the Switch Datacenters’ facility in Amsterdam, which features 90,000 square feet of data center space.

Amsterdam-based Switch Datacenters has formed an incubator for energy efficiency technologies, which it is calling “The Data Centre of the Future.” The company is inviting technology partners to set up research and development testbeds inside the company’s 90,000 square foot Amsterdam data center, and will offer the most promising technologies to its customers. The initial focus of the program will be new approaches to cooling, including liquid cooling. We recently conducted an email Q&A with Gregor Snip, Technical Director of Switch Datacenters, about the incubator program.

Data Center Knowledge: What prompted Switch to establish this incubator program? What do you hope to achieve?

Gregor Snip: We aim to adopt a considerable range of innovative data centre technologies as part of this program, particularly in the field of data centre cooling, as this is an area which still offers scope to achieve further energy efficiency.As a data centre firm, we are keen to establish a pioneering position both in the field of energy efficiency and the application of green data centre technologies. This can basically only be achieved by trying out and meticulously testing the very latest data centre technologies yourself according to structured R&D methods, before proceeding to select the most ideal technologies on the basis of best practices.

DCK: Is the incubator program focusing primarily on entirely new concepts, or refining existing approaches?

Snip: When we are talking about the cooling technology currently tested in our R&D lab, I can say that we are the first company in our kind in Europe using this kind of technology. It’s a groundbreaking technology. This being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the technologies being tested must be completely unknown cooling technologies in the market. On the contrary, as a data center operator we’re always searching for a healthy balance between innovation, customer requirements and business critical colocation needs.

In our Amsterdam data center where the R&D activities take place, we are using Free Cooling and aisle containment solutions, implemented in an energy smart manner. Air cooling will continue to play an important role in respect to cooling needs, but air cooling is facing its limits in the market – especially when you take into regard the needs of high demanding, heavy internet users. We think that liquid cooling technologies will be able to take us a step further, beyond the limits set by air cooling principles.

DCK: What happens with the technologies that emerge from this program? Will the designs from the incubator project be shared or sold to the wider data center industry?

Snip: At first, this is meant to create and maintain a competitive edge. We aim at creating high efficiency within our data center infrastructure, so we can keep the colocation rent of our data center space as low as possible. On top of that we would like to share some knowledge, to help technology developers with our experiences and act as an anchor client for new technologies for example. If the data center technology is useful for a data center, then Switch Datacenters could help developers of the technologies with its experiences in the commercial datacenter environment and act as an anchor client for the new technology.

The Data Center of the Future project is a stand-alone R&D project of Switch Datacenters. However, we are scanning our options on joining energy-efficiency efforts being initiated in a broader spectrum in the Amsterdam region, initiatives such as Green IT Amsterdam. The Amsterdam region has quite a lot of data center space within its borders, naturally because we’re at the top of the internet node with all the important European internet routes. Besides that the Amsterdam government is putting lots of efforts in ‘greening’ its data center sector. Why not share some knowledge in order to create energy-efficiency throughout the Amsterdam data center sector as a whole?

DCK: Is cooling the primary focus?

Snip: We will focus on technologies that will help us improve the energy-efficiency in the data center environment. Within our Data Center of the Future Program we are also planning to do research on alternative energy-efficient data center power solutions, either on AC or DC setups.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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