September saw an army press from across Europe be invited by Schneider Electric and Stack Infrastructure to attend the ‘Powering the path to a sustainable, digital future’ event in Italy.
Its aim was to facilitate a conversation around data centre sustainability trends and the evolution of electricity 4.0. At the same time, we were treated to tours of the Schneider Electric Cooling Hub and Stack’s MIL01 data centre campus.
Spanning 28,000 sqm Schneider Electric’s Cooling Hub in Conselve features chilled water and direct expansion room cooling, fan wall units, telco units as well as air-cooled, free-cooling and water-cooled chillers. It also boasts a range of certifications including ISO 14001, ISO 9001, OHSAS 18001, ISO 50001 and ETL.
Speaking with Silvia Olchini, Schneider’s vice president of Secure Power – Italy, she shared her thoughts on the general power landscape in Italy and how Schneider continues to lead in terms of green energy.
The green vision
“We as Schneider have a completely integrated approach when it comes to sustainability,” she says. “Its in our DNA so how we approach our markets and action our plans has this green focus at the heart of it.”
On this basis it is a very clear mission and strategy for Schneider but that also requires a level of education and teaching of the customer in some cases.
“The Italian market specifically is made up of big enterprises some of which have just started on their sustainability strategy,” she explains. “In this case, we need to help them by integrating our perspective into their plans.”
At the same time, she says there are also a lot of small enterprises that need to be taught about how to approach sustainability, which could include everything from efficiency, energy saving all the way to a more integrated approach.
“What I really try to communicate is sustainability is not a recovery plan,” she adds. “So, we need to build by design, a sustainable approach. Starting from building the right products and understanding the impact that AI will have in the full supply chain.”
The telco piece
Looking outside of just the data centre sector, telcos can also take a lot from Schneider and its lessons learned from implementing a more sustainable approach.
Speaking on telcos and its green power journey, Olchini said: “They [telcos] are understanding how they can modernise their networks because they have built their infrastructure in phases and now they have big infrastructure that’s not optimised or efficient.”
Olchini suggests things like consolidating workloads to reduce the use of IT infrastructure, then looking at how that workload can be more efficient in consuming energy, “we [Schneider] can help them by understanding that but in the end, they have to build a new strategy about efficiency and sustainability.”
Though she recognises the costs and complexity of such activities will likely mean telcos are a few years away from rolling out such changes, she reminds us that it really is a must as there are companies that are smaller, more efficient and more flexible, that are providing services in a very accelerated and sustainable way, that don’t have all the legacy limitations to deal with.
Sustainability and efficiency are not necessarily two words that intrinsically go together, but it seems to be very front of mind for Schneider.
Applications of AI
Further to that much of the conversation about AI seems to be focused on the power, cooling and compute requirements, but AI also has a part to play in efficiency, with technologies like data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) and other kinds of software-based kind of automation.
With its own DCIM solution, known as EcoStruxure IT, Olchini speaks to how AI/software products are helping efficiency, using some of the technologies that we also need to kind of be mindful of.
“You can only optimise if you know what you have to optimise,” she says. “At Schneider Electric we are providing these types of very advanced solutions to our power customers so they know what they have.”
“We then enable them to analyse the data coming from the physical infrastructure to then be able to then analyse this data and get the right information to take the right information and decision about optimisation,” she adds.
Talent and training
Having spent time exploring the Conselve hub, it is not a only a space with the latest cooling innovations such as free-air cooling and chassis-level immersion liquid cooling solutions are developed but it is also a centre for training new talent.
“We have to build the right competence in the market for the future of data centre evolution,” says Olchini.
“We are working with universities to build the right competence based on what we are doing and to define the right competencies that they have to build because there is competence, facility competence, we need a sustainability expert, someone that understands the entire data centre architecture overall and not a single parts application or solution.”
Everyone it seems to be on the lookout for the next or newest connectivity hub. Be it Greece, Portugal or even Spain, Olchini explained why Italy is was best place for the facility and why it’s the next big hub.
“It’s probably because of the investments that is coming to the market, probably because of the speed and networking that we have in place, evolution of the market and its sustainable growth make it all an attractive place for the next hub,” she says.
Schneider Electric provides part of the foundational physical infrastructure and software solutions for Stack’s MIL01A facility in Milan which is powered by 100% renewable energy, with an annual operational power usage effectiveness (PUE) of ~1.3, and a water usage effectiveness (WUE) of ~0.8 – all while meeting ASHRAE TC9.9 thermal guidelines.
Specifically, Stack uses Schneider Electric’s Galaxy VX UPS with Li-Ion batteries in its MIL01A facility, which offers up to 99% energy efficiency in eConversion mode, alongside Schneider Electric racks, Computer Room Air Conditioning units, electrical distribution, and switchgear.
Before visiting the Stack Infrastructure team at its MIL01 data centre campus Olchini spoke of the synergies between of Schneider and Stack in terms of its goals and strategy.
“Both from Schneider perspective and a Stack perspective, we’re starting to align our sustainability journeys very closely, and we’re working together on future strategies based on the types of data and planning I mentioned before.”
With all these sustainable products and services as a part of the roadmap for Schneider, what’s next in terms of innovation? It is a simple as optimising those technologies, making them bigger, faster or cooler, Olchini says its integration.
“We need to evolve from a product perspective to a solution perspective,” she says. “This is what our customers are asking from us. If we can provide our customers with the right solution based on their needs, this is the value we can provide in the future by adopting this single integrated, end-to-end approach.”
Looking ahead it’s clear that sustainability is Schneider’s strategic priority for the next few years, “and I’m just talking about scope 1 and scope 2, but also scope 3,” adds Olchini.
“We can manage our direct and indirect emissions. What we need to help our customers to understand is how they can manage the full supply chain. It all starts with the conversation and education.”