Dutch project gets funding to reduce data centre energy consumption and CO2 emissions 

A consortium of seven Dutch companies and research institutes will receive funding from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate after the European Commission gave the green light to the IPCEI-CIS programme. This stands for Important Project of Common European Interest – Cloud Infrastructure and Services. The consortium will receive the funding for the Modular Integrated Sustainable Datacenter project (MISD). Participants in the consortium are Asperitas, BetterBe, Deerns, Eurofiber, NBIP (National Internet Providers Management Organization), TNO and University of Twente. The Dutch government is allocating €70 million for MISD and other Dutch IPCEI-CIS projects. In total, IPCEI-CIS will provide €1.2 billion in funding to a variety of initiatives to drive the development of a European cloud infrastructure.   

The aim of MISD is to develop a new modular, sustainable and secure-by-design concept to be deployed in places close to end users (edge computing). The guiding principle is to achieve a significant reduction in total energy consumption, from cooling to computing power and data flows. Thereby, a CO2 reduction of more than 50% is set to be achieved in a validated, distributed setup in a field lab where different innovations developed in the project converge. The duration of the project is 5 years, from 2024 to 2029.   

The MISD consortium is thus taking the lead in European partnerships to embed sustainable applications into the foundation of the next generation of European cloud infrastructure and services. Maikel Bouricius, CMO of lead partner Asperitas on the project: “The MISD project is the outcome of years of collaboration in the Netherlands on energy-efficient data centres. Many stakeholders were involved in the initial phase to shape this initiative and this funding makes it possible for the Netherlands to be a development hub for the next generation of data centres. There are more field lab initiatives in Europe, but the distributed set up, scale and variety of innovations it will welcome is unique.” 

The award of the funding is an important step towards the cloud infrastructure of the future. The consortium participants aim to develop a sustainable answer to the growing demand for (local) data centre capacity in a more flexible way than is currently possible.  Bouricius: “Asperitas will work on the big challenge for cooling in the coming years. Compute requires more and more power, space and water, and advanced liquid cooling solutions are needed to make this growth sustainable. Optimal results require collaboration with a broad ecosystem, which this project makes possible.”   

Sustainability is thus an important cornerstone of the project, underlines Theo Balijon, Digital Transformation Officer at BetterBe. “We will contribute to the development and realisation of modular energy-efficient data centre housing with distributed cloud infrastructure platforms. In addition, we will investigate how reduction of CPU cycles can be realised in application software.” 

Jonathan Clark, Data Centre Sustainability Lead at Deerns said: “We are proud to be part of the consortium driving the creation of a ‘Modular Integrated Sustainable Data Centre of the Future’ in the Netherlands. In collaboration with partners we are pioneering innovative solutions for data centres. This groundbreaking project underscores Deerns MEP’s design, building physics, energy concepts and energy efficiency modelling. These modular, integrated and sustainable solutions set new benchmarks for design excellence eco-friendliness.” 

Distributed data centre workloads   

Another important way to maximise the energy efficiency of the infrastructure to be designed is to spread workloads within the distributed network to those places where there are surpluses of renewable energy. This requires solid fibre-optic connections. Eurofiber brings its expertise to this theme, among others. “The development of a staging lab and a -via fibre connected- geographically distributed field lab environment will be part of our contribution to this project. Developing energy, data and compute use cases is also part of this,” says Martin Vos, Business Innovation Director at Eurofiber.  

Given the constantly changing online threat landscape, security by design is a key focus: the infrastructure will be designed with availability and security in mind. “NBIP will investigate how the availability of online services can be secured in this new cloud infrastructure, for example by distributed DDoS mitigation. In the field lab, we want to demonstrate that a secure by design distributed setup makes cloud infrastructures more secure and reliable”, said Octavia de Weerdt, director of NBIP.   

A more sustainable cloud  

Ultimately, the project should enable a more sustainable cloud. To that end, it is important to make climate impact measurable. Marc van Dijk, TNO portfolio lead Digital Infrastructures: “We are investigating how sustainability parameters in distributed and federated data centres can be used to reduce the climate impact of cloud use. The software components we develop will make data centres contribute more to the flexibility needed in power grids to better deal with the variation in supply and demand of (green) energy.”  

Finally, the University of Twente focuses on four sustainability-oriented lines of research, describes  Maria Vlasiou, professor of stochastic networks. “These include scalable, sustainable, innovative computational approaches for data centre operations and data centres as active support for the power grid. We will also focus on advanced thermal management for sustainable cooling and heat utilisation, software solutions for secure multi-party cloud systems, and stakeholder engagement through learning communities for inter-organisational learning and innovation implementation.”  

Educating the public and stakeholders on progress  

The consortium is developing a website to keep stakeholders and interested parties informed of the project’s progress. In addition, consortium participants will proactively share their knowledge gained during the project, for example during events, workshops, knowledge sessions and webinars.

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