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Intelligent IP networks help Tencent build green data centers

Cutting-edge data-center technologies are helping Tencent to reduce its carbon footprint.

By Wang Yinhua, Metro Router Solutions Specialist, Huawei

Climate change continues to grow more serious, with CO2 emissions causing a greenhouse effect that’s threatening the planet. The UN reports that to avoid serious climate change impact, global warming must be limited to 1.5ºC – a huge challenge for the global economy that will require the joint efforts of all governments and industries.

The digital economy has propelled continuous growth of the ICT enterprise economy. As world-leading ICT providers, Huawei and Tencent aim to minimize the environmental impact in their ICT products through continuous technological innovation.

Tencent implements green data center design

Today you can upload photos to cloud photo albums, order food and anything else online, play online games, and make mobile payments, all with a few swipes of your finger. And at any one moment, China's 854 million netizens are using the services of countless data centers.


These "smokeless steel mills" are creating economic value but are also highly energy-intensive. Data centers consume an astounding amount of electricity to power the massive amounts of data they handle. Such huge power consumption means data centers are classed as an energy-intensive industry.

A total of 74,000 data centers of different types were operating in China by the end of 2019, accounting for 23 percent of the total number worldwide. Their annual electricity consumption exceeded 204.5 billion kWh, totaling 2.7 percent of total electricity consumption in China. 

With the advent of 5G, the energy consumption of data centers will continue to grow, and reducing energy use and emissions from data centers will become crucial, setting the stage for the emergence of green data centers.

Optimized data center power supply architecture

The Data Center White Paper issued by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) and the Open Data Center Committee (ODCC) provides guidance for data center construction and outlines the need to simplify the power supply architecture of data centers.

Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) dominate traditional data centers and their industry chain is mature. However, they offer low energy conversion efficiency. And with the rapid growth of the data center industry and soaring construction costs and energy consumption, high-voltage direct current (HVDC), which boasts high reliability and low costs, is a new choice for data center power supply systems. The HVDC + direct mains supply model can increase power supply efficiency by 94 to 95 percent. And HVDC is already widely used by large Internet firms, including Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu.

Tencent's third-generation data center power supply systems adopt a 240V HVDC + direct mains supply architecture. After energy-saving sleep mode is turned on, power supply efficiency can reach 98 percent – over 2 percent more energy-efficient than dual-channel HVDC systems and over 6 percent more energy-efficient than traditional UPS. The system overall offers at least 10-percent more energy savings, not counting the additional energy-conserving benefits from the reduction in energy used for power system cooling.

On the infrastructure side, using HVDC power supply offers higher reliability for data centers than UPS. The third-gen system also delivers significant advantages over traditional data center power supply architecture in terms of equipment investment costs and O&M. 

Power supply modules on Huawei's full range of router products support HVDC power supply. They feature a magnetic field generated by a magnet and pointed grills to reduce arc intensity and quickly guide electrical discharges. This prevents arcs (sparks) so that one standby module can protect multiple active modules, improving the power supply capacity of the equipment. The change from N+N redundancy to N+1 redundancy reduces the hardware footprint by 45 percent and improves power modules' forward conversion efficiency end-to-end.

In 2016, Huawei router power modules offered 83 percent conversion efficiency. As of 2019, Huawei had boosted this to an industry-leading 88 percent through measures such as changing the module components, topology, structure, and bus.

Lower power consumption of core equipment 

Server power consumption has continued to rise with the rapid increases in router capacity. According to a survey by Colocation America, average power density per rack in data centers was about 6 kW in 2008. This increased to 12 kW in 2016 and is projected to hit 16.5 kW by 2020.

The power consumption of IP equipment that makes up servers is constantly breaking per-rack limits, and Huawei is continually smashing router capacity limits. We’re also committed to reducing the power consumption of the hardware and customers' construction costs.

Huawei's metro router products achieve a per Gbit energy consumption rate as low as 0.3 W, more than 50 percent lower than the previous generation of products. The chipsets use SuperCooling heat dissipation, which reduces chip temperature by over 10ºC and increases board reliability by 20 percent. The technology harnesses vapor chamber (VC) liquid cooling and carbon nano thermal pads. With this technology, Huawei is more than two years ahead of the industry.

In a VC liquid-cooling system, a process of condensation quickly circulates in the vacuum chamber, achieving efficient gas-liquid two-phase heat dissipation, offering 100 times the thermal conductivity of traditional radiators.

Carbon nano thermal conduction converts irregular heat dissipation to directional heat dissipation, achieving six times the thermal conductivity of traditional silicone paste thermal pads. Huawei is the first in the industry to apply it.

Huawei leverages 20 years of experience and continuous innovation in heat dissipation in the design and production of highly complex heat sinks.

Powerful fan addresses single-point heat dissipation

It's not just running core components that contribute to data centers' high energy consumption and electricity bills. While computers and mobile phones can get very hot with extended use, data centers contain hundreds of billions of chips and can get much, much hotter. Therefore a large amount of electricity is used for cooling and heat dissipation to ensure data center equipment can operate normally. According to data center energy savings guidelines published in 2007 by the US-based Green Grid, only 35 percent of electricity is consumed by the actual ICT equipment – 36 percent is used for cooling and 9 percent is used by air conditioning systems.

Rising power density is far exceeding the processing capacity of most cabinets. When engineers designed data center cooling and air conditioning in the past, they were working on the assumption that IT workloads were even and dispersed. However, this is not the case in real operating environments, especially in high-density cabinets. Companies have found that there is never enough cooling capacity to solve issues with single-point heat dissipation with regular fans, which leads to uneven temperatures and excess energy consumption in high-density cabinets compared to non-dense cabinets.

Huawei has worked with a well-known international fan company to develop the industry's first mixed-flow fan for servers. It offers up to three times higher heat dissipation capacity than rival products, reducing the heat dissipation requirements of equipment rooms. A unique magnetic permeability motor and mute dampener ring in the fan reduce noise by 6 dB.

Working together for a green planet

Every country, enterprise, and even individual needs to fully integrate green thinking into concrete action.

Huawei is doing so with its own products and solutions and is urging upstream and downstream industry players to take part in carbon-neutral initiatives. Like Huawei, Tencent has integrated all its platforms and product resources, applied integrated digital solutions in the areas of green operations, green community building, and green partnerships, and is working with the government, public, and non-profit organizations, to help protect our planet.