UN and OpenUK propose open source challenge for datacenters

Next-Gen Data Centers
Sheila Zabeu -

October 31, 2023

An initiative led by OpenUK, a non-profit organization representing the UK’s Open Technology sector, and the United Nations Office for Information and Communications Technology (UN-OICT) will hold an open source challenge around its Data Center Blueprint known as the “Patchwork Kilt“. Participants will have to come up with open source solutions for facilities that are carbon negative, i.e. have the capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Participants will have the opportunity to contribute in a number of different fields, such as:

  • Heat redirection: Open source software solution for monitoring and redirecting the heat produced in datacenters;

  • Reuse of physical spaces: Open-source tool to better re-evaluate urban spaces, finding abandoned sites that can be reused for datacenter facilities;

  • Heat reuse: Statistical analysis of open data sets to identify areas where heat can be reused;

  • Circular supply chain: Open source software solution to manage the life cycle of critical datacenter components;

  • Evolution of the Open UK model: Analysis of Patchwork Kilt data to generate insights on how to boost global sustainability efforts;

  • Empowering communities: Giving communities practical insights from datacenters that can be used to build more sustainable cities.

“Achieving a sustainable future that benefits everyone depends on collaborative action. That’s why we devised the Blueprint Challenge, as a way of driving wider contributions and a broader community, enabling the inclusion of new technologies. It’s an important initiative that could have tangible impacts on the future of datacenters,” says Chris Lloyd-Jones, the OpenUK director leading the project.

“Advances in computing power and Artificial Intelligence have the potential to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this context, open source is key, as it is a universal connector that unites diverse voices around a common language,” highlights Salem Avan, director of the UN’s Policy, Strategy and Governance division, reinforcing the importance of open source for datacenters, as it fuels innovation, transparency and cost efficiency. “By leveraging open source technology to run datacenters efficiently, we not only reduce our environmental footprint, but also contribute to global sustainable development efforts.”

Applications for the challenge can be made on the UN Unite Platform until November 10, and more information can be found on the OpenUK website.

The winner of the challenge will receive a trophy during the OpenUK awards ceremony and will attend a dinner at the House of Lords in November.

OpenUK is the UK organization to promote Open Technology businesses – open software, hardware and data implemented using open standards and open innovation. As part of its work around sustainability, it created a shared datacenter project at COP26 (Data Center Blueprint).

Pillars of a green datacenter

Green data centers can be classified as such because they adopt measures aimed at reducing costs, promoting water conservation and zero (net) carbon emissions. To do this, it is necessary to consider the design of facilities, the source and use of energy and water, measurement and control systems for key performance indicators (KPIs) and asset lifecycle management.

According to an article by Tata Consulting Services, there are three imperatives in the journey towards green datacenters:

  1. Adoption of clean energy sources: Green datacenters must use renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. However, availability, costs and limited reliability of renewable energy sources can make the transition difficult.
  2. Integrating legacy systems: Modernizing datacenters in order to meet sustainability standards can be a challenge because of infrastructure limitations, such as outdated cooling systems and limited space. One way to overcome this problem is to use a hyperscale cloud approach, which allows servers to be added or removed according to demand and can be combined with virtualization to reduce energy consumption.
  3. From e-waste to circularity: End-of-life IT assets can be more actively evaluated for recycling or reuse. Proactive management of datacenter infrastructure can also improve results when equipment condition and design standards are taken into account in terms of operational efficiency.