by Elizabeth Otley
Northampton, Massachusetts – Live News – Alibaba Group
Alibaba Cloud is on track to achieve carbon reduction goals as it upgrades server storage data centers around the world, according to a scientist on the project.
Alibaba Group’s cloud computing arm aims to run global data centers entirely on clean energy by 2030, starting with upgrades to five of its large-scale data centers in China.
“Environmentally friendly data centers are critical to Alibaba’s sustainable operations,” Shanyuan Zhao, general manager of the Internet data center division of Alibaba Cloud Infrastructure, told Alizila in an interview.
The cloud computing division uses the latest green technology in these facilities, where liquid cooling and renewable electricity storage makes the biggest difference in reducing carbon emissions.
“In our Hangzhou data center, server clusters are immersed in specialized liquid coolant, which quickly cools IT equipment,” Zhao explained.
Alibaba Cloud’s Zhangbei data center uses the same method. It obtained green energy consumption certification from Beijing Electric Power Exchange Center in 2021, recognizing the facility as the first in China to use heat pump technology.
As Alibaba Cloud builds a secure and resilient global infrastructure network, Zhao believes that the advanced technology inside these data centers will become the new standard. “Liquid refrigeration will be promoted throughout China and in more countries in the future,” he said.
The cloud computing company is leading the country in other ways, too.
According to a ranking of top buyers and sellers by research provider Bloomberg NEF, Alibaba Cloud emerged as the largest buyer of clean energy in China last year after purchasing nearly 269 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in 2021.
Rise to the challenge
While clean energy solves many problems, its use brings with it its own set of challenges. The power supply from solar and wind sources can be fickle, providing full power when the weather is fair and windy but failing to produce when conditions change.
“We are looking at carbon management tools to help us make better use of energy trading schemes while also planning for more stable energy supplies,” he said.
Alibaba Cloud is also exploring other pioneering technologies, such as pumping water for energy storage, a popular way to conserve renewable energy until it is needed.
The exact location of some data centers also inoculates them against these concerns. Alibaba Cloud is taking advantage of the environment, setting up facilities in places like Ulanqab in Inner Mongolia, where temperatures regularly drop to -22 degrees Celsius.
According to Gao, the data center uses a free-air cooling system that does not require additional machine cooling for 10 months of the year.
From the inside out
The data center is only as efficient as the server chips allow. Alibaba launched its first proprietary chip, known as the Yitian 710, to cut electricity usage further.
“The Yitian 710 can accommodate up to 60 billion transistors in each chip,” Zhao said, which translates to a 50% higher power efficiency ratio than other models.
This will make the transition to clean energy easier as it reduces the demand for unpredictable solar and wind energy sources.
According to Alibaba Cloud president Jeff Zhang, the chips have been in use since they first appeared at Alibaba’s annual Apsara conference in Hangzhou. They will support current and future businesses across the Alibaba ecosystem.
The Yitian 710 runs inside the company’s self-developed Panjiu servers, which separate computing from storage to better support cloud-native services, such as software in computer applications that don’t use physical servers.
“This allows servers to specialize in AI computing, making large-scale data dissemination more cost-effective,” he added.
The combined strengths of this device can also be used in training and using AI models, which has been an incredibly energy-draining process — until now.
Please refer to https://www.alizila.com/esg/ for additional information on Alibaba’s sustainability efforts.
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