What Are Japanese Data Center Operators Interested In?

Because I cover Japan as well as the U.S., I often talk with Japanese data center operators about their interests. In these Internet times, some U.S. news is delivered to Japan instantly, but they want to talk to real data center operators and experts to find out how things are in their day-to-day operations.

Their three main interests appear to be cloud computing, economizer, and tier. I have written a lot about cloud computing and its relationship to data centers. Some Japanese data center operators wonder whether the future of data centers and cloud computing will be heavily consolidated to a small number in the U.S. If cloud computing makes the location of data centers irrelevant, all the Japanese data centers will not be necessary, and their operators may be out of work.

In discussing data center operators and doing some secondary research, my conclusion is that this will not be the case. The speed of the electrons that carry a packet on the Internet cannot exceed a certain limit. The distance between San Jose and Tokyo is about 5,500 miles, and the round trip is more than 11,000 miles. Some applications are insensitive to the speed of response, but for other applications, a slow response does not work. For that reason, most experts and operators do not think that data centers will be consolidated to a small number in the U.S. or that data centers in Japan will be out of business.

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Avoidable Mistakes that Compromise Cooling Performance
in Data Centers and Network Rooms
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Because cooling uses 35% or more of the power consumed by a data center, if you eliminate cooling altogether, you should be able to reduce overall power consumption. Economizer for cooling is getting a lot of attention in the U.S., and Japanese operators are also interested in it. Japan’s data centers are mostly in Tokyo and the region between Tokyo and Osaka, where the majority of the population and businesses reside. The cooler climate in Japan is north of Tokyo, where a smaller concentration of the population and business is. This area tends to lack power and network access, so having data centers outside the Tokyo-Osaka region is not a good idea.

Economizer is a good idea, but Silicon Valley and Tokyo have very different climates. Silicon Valley enjoys a moderate climate with low humidity. Some say that outside air can be used without cooling for data centers there for nearly 80% of the year. Tokyo and its industrial region tend to be hotter and more humid in summer. Using the same criteria, economizer is not suitable for Japan.

Intel and Microsoft did some experiments using only outside air for cooling. They concluded that there was no problem in cooling IT equipment with untreated outside air. On the basis of that conclusion, some people claim outside air is the solution for cooling data centers. I am a little hesitant to make such a claim. Both experiments were conducted in a nonproduction environment, and their duration was not very long. Furthermore, I have not seen any real application of this idea in any production environment since those experiments.

Christian Belady of Microsoft has an interesting point of view.  If vendors like IBM, HP, and Dell manufacture a server that can operate at a higher temperature, the possibility of using outside air will increase. Each component of the server could be cooled individually, and a fan could be redesigned so that it does not increase its speed when the inlet air temperature goes beyond 75 °F. Server vendors like NEC, Fujitsu, and Hitachi may want to consider developing a server to implement this idea. If successful, they can expand their market in this new world of data center temperature.

Finally, Uptime Institute developed the idea of data center tiers in 1996 and revised it in 2008. Recently, industry experts like Mike Manos of Digital Realty Trust suggested having only Tier II data centers (no redundancy for power or cooling). They are insisting on redundancy at the inter–data center level. Of course, we cannot yet implement this inter–data center approach instead of Tier III or IV. But this is the direction of data centers in the U.S.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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2 Responses to What Are Japanese Data Center Operators Interested In?

  1. MattW November 19, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    Using outside air for cooling in areas where you have salt water (ocean) nearby seems like a bad idea (corrosion)

  2. Zen Kishimoto November 19, 2009 at 3:05 pm #


    Thanks for your comment. Japanese understand the weather there is not suitable for outside air cooling very much. The Green Grid put out information about the regions of the U.S., Europe and Japan good for outside air cooling.


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