Alibaba's Qiandao Lake DC sets high watermark

Sheila Lam
11 Sep 2015

Panoramic view of the AliCloud Qiandao Lake Data Center

Alibaba's computing unit AliCloud opened its eighth data center on Tuesday. With the facility at Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang province, the company aims to set new benchmark in energy efficiency and data center technologies.

Dedicated for Alibaba’s IaaS public cloud offering, Aliyun, the new data center is an 11-floor building providing 30,000m2 of floor space. With five floors of data hall space, the data center has a capacity to hold 50,000 servers. The project is a partnership with local data center facility provider Waton Cloud Data.

“This is not our largest data center, but we’ve achieved the most technology breakthroughs here,” said Jian Wang, CTO at Alibaba Group.

Achieving international standards in PUE and WUE

One of the major breakthroughs is its achievement in energy-efficiency—the lowest energy consumption among the company’s other seven data centers.

AliCloud stated that this data center is designed to achieve annual average power usage effectiveness (PUE) lower than 1.3. Since the data center started its operation four months ago, the company recorded an average PUE of 1.27. According to a global survey last year from Uptime Institute, the average PUE for data centers is 1.8.

The new data center also measures its hydro-footprint, which is the use of water in its cooling system. AliCloud noted that the water usage effectiveness (WUE) ratio at the data center is under 0.2—lower than the WUE ratio at Facebook’s Prineville data center, which was recorded as 0.3 in 2011.

One of the reasons of achieving such high level of energy efficiency, according to AliCloud, is the use of the nearby natural resources for the data center’s cooling system. Located near Qiandao Lake at Zhejiang Province, the data center relies on the cool lake water as its free cooling agent.

Expert at the company’s internal data center management unit, Alibaba Infrastructure Service (AIS), Yan-chang Chen said that water from deep in the lake has an average temperature of 12-16 degree Celsius. It is pumped to the data center premise, where it is filtered and processed as chiller 90% of the time, reducing energy cost by 80%, as compared to the regular mechanical cooling system. Chen added the returned warm water can also be used for heating the building during winter.

“The engineering involved in pumping and processing water from the lake was our biggest technology challenge and breakthrough in this data center,” added Wang. “The project could be great material for National Geographic programs.”

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