Alibaba is making nine key patents for green data center technology free for external parties
- Alibaba has pledged to make nine energy efficiency data center patents free for external parties to accelerate the adoption of green technology and foster collaborative innovation.
- Alibaba Cloud also plans to have its global data centers running entirely on clean energy by 2030, starting with upgrades to five of its hyper-scale data centers in China.
Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group joined the Low Carbon Patent Pledge (LCPP) along with HPE, Microsoft and Meta, in a bid to accelerate the adoption of green technology around the world. The company, for the first time, is making nine key patents for green data center technology free for the use of external parties.
For starters, the move came after Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, shared its goals to have its global data centers running entirely on clean energy by 2030. That green initiative will kick start with upgrades to five of its hyper-scale data centers in China.
In a statement last Friday, Alibaba said the nine patents offered are parts of its green data center technologies including the unique “soaking server” cooling system Alibaba Cloud has deployed for its data centers since 2015. This non-mechanical cooling measure leads to energy savings of over 70% compared to traditional mechanical cooling.
Alibaba Group’s VP and chair of sustainability steering committee Chen Long said “We believe technology innovation is a key driver in transitioning to the low-carbon circular economy of the future. As a pioneer and global technology leader, we are committed to taking broader social responsibility to use technology to level the playing field and to empower the wider social groups, creating long-term value.”
For contect, the Low Carbon Pledge Patent was launched on Earth Day last year by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, and Meta with the mission of promoting low carbon technologies and fostering collaborative innovation. It is, as Alibaba puts it, “a way to encourage a collective approach to build a sustainable and inclusive future for the society and environment through open collaboration, joint innovations and mutual inspiration.”
Alibaba Cloud Infrastructure’s Internet Data Center Division’s General Manager Shanyuan Gao also highlighted that eco-friendly data centers are critical to Alibaba’s sustainable operations. “We employ cutting-edge green technologies in its hyper-scale facilities, of which liquid cooling and renewable electricity storage make a considerable difference in reducing carbon emissions”
For instance, in Alibaba’s Hangzhou data center, server clusters are submerged in specialized liquid coolant, which quickly chills the IT hardware. Even Alibaba Cloud’s Zhangbei data center employs the same method, which contributed to it earning a Green Power Consumption Certificate from the Beijing Electric Power Exchange Center in 2021, recognizing the facility as the first in China to use heat-pump technology.
Alibaba Cloud also believes that the advanced technology housed within the data centers will become the new standard with liquid cooling being promoted throughout China and in more countries in the future. The tech giant even admits that clean energy, while solves many issues, its use brings its own set of challenges. The energy supply from solar and wind sources for an instance–it can be fickle, delivering full power when the weather is fair and windy but failing to produce when conditions change.
To address that, Alibaba Cloud is assessing carbon management tools to help it better take advantage of energy trading schemes while also planning a more stable energy supply. Alibaba Cloud is also exploring other frontier technologies, like pumping water to store energy, a common way to conserve renewable energy until it is needed.
Alibaba also launched its first proprietary chip, the Yitian 710, to help cut electricity use further. The Yitian 710 can accommodate up to 60 billion transistors in each chip, translating into a 50% higher energy efficiency ratio compared with other models. This will make transitioning to clean energy easier as it reduces demand on unpredictable solar and wind energy sources.