UN-Backed Data Center Competition Highlights Need for Open Source Sustainability Solutions

OpenUK’s ‘Patchwork Kilt’ data center challenge closes on November 10.

James Walker

October 30, 2023

4 Min Read
Open source data center competition launched by OpenUK and the UN

OpenUK has partnered with the United Nations (UN) to launch the ‘Patchwork Kilt’ challenge, a worldwide competition that’s aimed at stimulating innovation in the field of open source sustainability solutions for data centers.

The global data center industry continues to experience rapid growth. With energy demand from the sector now accounting for more than 1% of global electricity use, the need for sustainable solutions is greater than ever.

“Open technology can play a vital role in improving data center efficiency, helping to drive data center operations in a transparent, innovative, and ecologically responsible way,” OpenUK CEO Amanda Brock told Data Center Knowledge.

Building on its Data Centre Blueprint that was launched at COP26, OpenUK is hoping its latest competition will encourage the next generation of open source solutions to help ensure the long-term viability of the data center ecosystem.

Patchwork Kilt Data Center Challenge

Running from October 10 to November 11, participants in the Patchwork Kilt data center challenge can make open source contributions across numerous different fields for developing carbon-neutral solutions for data centers.

The areas include:

  • Heat redirection: Develop an open source software solution to monitor and redirect heat produced in data centers

  • Building repurposing: Create an open source tool to better re-evaluate urban spaces, finding brownfield sites that can be reused for data centers

  • Heat reuse: A statistical analysis of open datasets to identify areas to repurpose wasted heat

  • Circular supply chain: Build an open source software solution that manages the lifecycle of critical data center components

  • Blueprint evolution: Analyze Patchwork Kilt data for insights into how to improve global sustainability efforts

  • Community empowerment: Provide communities with insights from data centers that can be used to build more sustainable cities

Related:7 Open Source Tools to Consider for Your Data Center

OpenUK's Patchwork Kilt Data Center Challenge

The winner of OpenUK's 'Patchwork Kilt' Data Center Challenge will be announced in February 2024

Industry Support

Jimmy McArthur, director of business development at the OpenInfra Foundation, an open source infrastructure non-profit and maintainer of the OpenStack project, welcomed the launch of the Patchwork Kilt challenge.

“I love the fact that the UN is taking a stance on putting open source technologies first,” McArthur told Data Center Knowledge.

“All six of these categories should be urgently addressed. Many responsible organizations working with the OpenInfra Foundation have already started by using OpenStack to help manage their data center workloads.”

He added: “I look forward to seeing what the Patchwork Kilt contest uncovers to help drive technology solutions to a more responsible and sustainable place.”

Related:openDCIM Offers Open Source Option for DCIM

Data Center Challenge Details

Submissions for the Patchwork Kilt challenge do not need to come exclusively from UK residents or organizations, Brock confirmed.

“The open source community is global, and we want this to be reflected in the challenge, which is why we’re welcoming contributions from anyone with the necessary ability to create them,” she said.

Across the different submission categories, OpenUK has a range of requirements to ensure the competition stays true to the ethos of open technology. These include:

  • Licensing: All contributions should adhere to open source principles, with source code and data released under open source licenses or open data licenses from Creative Commons, the CDLA, or similar.

  • Open Source Software: Code should be open source, and repositories must be publicly accessible on platforms like GitHub or GitLab. Projects should align with open standards, innovation, and sustainability goals.

  • Supporting evidence: Submissions should include supporting documentation and a brief video to help others understand and use the project.

  • Environmental Focus: Each submission should address a specific environmental issue related to data centers and sustainability, as outlined in the respective challenge category. 

Positive Strides Toward Sustainability

According to Brock, the data center industry has “undoubtedly made some positive strides toward sustainability” over the past decade.

“Since 2001, data centers have become more energy-efficient through virtualization, improved cooling systems, and server consolidation,” she said. “Data center design and construction have become more environmentally friendly, focusing on using sustainable materials and efficient layouts.

However, despite these advancements, she said there’s still much work to be done.

“The industry needs to further embrace open technology solutions and other innovations to achieve the goal of genuinely carbon-neutral – or even carbon-negative – data centers.”

By integrating sustainable practices and open source technologies into the core of data center operations, Brock said this will make a “substantial and lasting difference” to an industry that is undergoing a period of rapid expansion.

Patchwork Kilt submissions can be made on the UN’s Unite platform. The winning contributor will be invited to present their solution at OpenUK’s State of Open Con 24 on February 6-7, 2024.

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About the Author(s)

James Walker

James Walker is the Senior Editor of Data Center Knowledge. He has more than 16 years of experience writing for business and technology publications, with a focus on translating technical issues to make them more accessible and engaging.

Before joining DCK, James was editor of The Daily Swig, an award-winning cybersecurity news website, and his work has been featured in The Times and BBC Online, among other publications. His first full-length book, HIT: Once Upon a Field, was published in 2023.

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