PH's largest data center is Asia's most energy efficient

Largest data center in PH is ‘Asia’s most energy-efficient’

By: - Business News Editor / @daxinq
/ 02:04 AM January 05, 2024

 The cooling system of Digital Edge Narra 1 in Biñan, Laguna, stands out among peers in the region.

GREEN DATA CENTER The cooling system of Digital Edge Narra 1 in Biñan, Laguna, stands out among peers in the region. —Contributed photo

Launched last March by Singapore-based hyperscaler Digital Edge and its Philippine partner Threadborne Group, the Narra 1 data center in Biñan, Laguna, is nowhere near the massive facilities operating in North America or Europe.

But the 10-megawatt (MW) facility is making waves in the rapidly growing industry, despite its relatively small size, because of several key innovations that put it right up there with its global peers, especially in terms of energy efficiency.


Digital Edge chief development officer Jay Park explains that the new data center has leapfrogged far ahead of its Asian competitors, thanks to substantially lower power consumption levels that ultimately translate to lower costs for the firm and lower prices for clients.


“We are the first to deploy innovative cooling technology,” he says in an interview with the Inquirer. “We put [the Philippines] on the map in terms of data center innovation.”

According to the firm, Narra 1 is the country’s first “carrier neutral” data center, meaning it is not affiliated with any telecommunications firm.

As an independent company, Digital Edge can give its customers—from banks to consumer and retail giants to technology firms—equal access to any communications and data network they prefer. This independence also translates to lower costs for clients, ultimately.

Coupled with the new cooling technology, which requires less electricity and water to maintain optimal temperatures for the massive heat-generating data transfers, the business proposition for clients here and abroad is compelling.

“If you look at the Asian market today, data center design is lagging behind. North America and Europe are far ahead in terms of energy,” Park explains, adding that while their 10-MW facility is not that big by North American standards, it already is the largest data center in the Philippines.

“And I must say that this is the most energy-efficient in Asia today,” he adds.


Park knows whence he speaks. The US native is an electrical engineer who graduated from California Polytechnic State University. He was previously the vice president of data center infrastructure at Facebook (now Meta), where he spearheaded the design of the company’s first data center, eventually expanding its footprint to various sites around the world. All told, he has over two decades of experience in this field. Park explains that the average power usage effectiveness (PUE) of the newest data centers in the Asian market is 1.55.

“What that means is that, if you’re using 1,000 watts of IT power, you will need about 500 watts of cooling or energy loss power,” he says. “Almost half of your IT load goes to cooling power.”

“But for us, it is less than 1.2. It is significantly lower,” says of Digital Edge’s Narra 1 facility. “For our new data center, we actually obtained 1.16.”

Around Asia, the best data center of competitors has a PUE “in the neighborhood of 1.3,” Park notes. “That amount of power savings means users will have to pay a lot less.”

Setting the bar

Narra 1 was launched last March with 2,200 cabinets, 12 data halls and colocation space of 5,200 square meters. It is designed to address the demand coming from cloud, network, digital media and enterprise customers. Already Digital Edge is looking at opening a second facility in Metro Manila amid the growing demand for colocation services in the advent of increased digitalization.

Apart from its Singapore headquarters and Philippine operations, Digital Edge has a presence in China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Korea. The firm plans to spend $100 million for its Philippine operations.

The company’s local facility excites Park because it has “set the bar” in the industry and is pushing the boundaries of technology.

“For this data center in Laguna, we’re very proud of it because we just set the bar for the industry in terms of efficiency,” he says. “Even when I compare this data center with North America, this will be right up there in the top 5 percent.”

The engineer explains that Digital Edge’s technology uses a special membrane through which coolant (typically water) is passed, during which heat exchange happens, and cool water comes out on the other end. This cool water is then piped into the servers to lower their temperatures and prevent heat damage. “We can drop the temperature by 14 degrees Celsius by doing so,” Park says. “That is free cooling. I just have a very small pump to run it. It’s not even a big pump. The slower [the flow] the better. And we use that to cool the data center. If it’s really hot, we have auxiliary cooling to drop it further.”

Energy savings

The system is so effective that, during testing last January, they couldn’t get the auxiliary cooling system to turn on because the primary system was already lowering the water temperature so effectively and efficiently. And all this also jibes with the ongoing global trend of sustainability.

“Besides all the cost, we need to focus on energy savings. The population is growing,” he says, pointing out that the latest estimate of the global population now stands at 8.1 billion people.

“The population is growing, and a lot of developing countries skipped hardwired phones. They went from nothing to digital,” the Digital Edge official explains. “And when you go digital, what can you not do on your phone? Your online shopping, searching, sharing stories, saving photos and videos … everything we do is around our phones. That requires more servers and data centers.”

Despite this, company officials acknowledge that bringing this new technology to the market has its challenges, with some clients still opting for less efficient existing methods that are tried and tested.

He explains that the data center industry is unlike others, where mistakes are patiently remedied with improved training processes.

“In the data center world, if you make a mistake, you may lose your job. I’ve seen this thing before,” Park says. “A lot of the high executives don’t want to take that risk. If you lose an app or something that is directly linked to their revenue, it’s not going to be easy. So they’d rather not take that chance of taking a more energy-efficient system and they just go along with the old technology.”

But Digital Edge has broken the ice with its Laguna facility —a first in Asia in terms of this level of energy efficiency and will soon break more ice with new locations.

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It’s not a question of whether corporate clients with heavy data requirements will adopt the kind of service Digital Edge provides, but when and how fast. In the meantime, the company will keep building … knowing that clients will eventually, inevitably see the light. —Contributed

TAGS: data center

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