Townhall meeting report about datacenters in Middenmeer
Microsoft provides local residents with background information about data center
On 18 October, 2021, Microsoft held an online information meeting for residents of the data center in Middenmeer. Residents of the municipality of Hollandse Kroon, journalists and interested parties were invited to talk to us. In addition to an introduction about the usefulness and necessity of data centers, attention was paid to water and energy consumption and the expansion that has already started. Half of the meeting there was time for questions and answers. Just over 100 people participated in the information meeting.
There were four speakers from Microsoft: director Michel N’Guettia, chief technology officer Rob Elsinga, data center operations manager Nick Hengelman and community lead Florien ten Hove who is responsible for the collaboration programs that Microsoft has in the region.
More ‘green’ around data centre expansion
Rob Elsinga is responsible for technological development at Microsoft Netherlands. He spoke about the expansion at the Venster-West where the preparation for construction has already started. Microsoft’s first location is technically home to seven data centers in one complex. In the new complex at the Window, two more will be added. This expansion is therefore less large than the center that is already there.
Elsinga spoke about the integration into the polder landscape. Microsoft has listened to the criticism of the landscape integration of the current complex. We want to do that better with this enlargement. With more attention to a green strip with trees along the edge of the buildings. This is discussed in the advisory council with residents from the region, the municipality and Agriport. We are also working on ideas to better fit the current data center. The possibilities to work with a lot of greenery there are limited by the underground cabling. As soon as the plans for the landscape integration have been worked out, we will provide more information about this.
Sustainability and energy consumption are hugely important to Microsoft. In his explanation, Elsinga therefore also addressed the questions about the water use of the data centre. The data center is cooled with air. In fact, the servers are permanently ventilated with cool air. Only in hot weather, when it is more than 29 degrees Celsius outside, that ‘ventilation air’ must first be cooled to be effective. For this, water is used that is cooler than the air in the summer. That water is collected and reused. In this way, the energy and water requirements for cooling are significantly reduced. The water is purified and leaves the complex just as clean as when it entered.
Microsoft has the ambition to be sustainable. Worldwide, the goal is to be CO2 negative by 2030. At the moment, Microsoft is already CO2 neutral. This is mainly because we purchase green energy all over the world wherever possible. We are therefore working together with universities and research centres to see how we can capture CO2 and remove it from the atmosphere. That requires a lot of innovation. For example, by generating solar energy on our roofs, by developing energy-efficient computer chips or by reusing rainwater for cooling. The ultimate goal is to have compensated all co2 that Microsoft has ever produced by 2050.
Sustainability is therefore a starting point. In the Netherlands, Microsoft purchases approximately 270 megawatts of green electricity. This comes from the wind farm in the Wieringermeer (Vattenfall) and the offshore wind farm near Borssele (Eneco). Not all that energy is used. But in the future we expect that to be the case. Precisely by consciously using green electricity, Microsoft is an important driver of the energy transition worldwide. We want to help the world become more sustainable and at the same time meet the world’s need to be connected in networks and to work together. There is certainly growth in energy consumption because we – as a society – all use more and more data for the applications that we use every day. The pandemic is pushing that even further. But there is also a shift in energy consumption to data centers like ours. Many organizations see that by placing their data management with us, they have to use less energy themselves. And thus be able to better realize their own sustainability goals. Just as they let their employees meet more online to fly less. This also contributes to the growing need for data centres and the associated green energy consumption.
A good neighbor…
Florien ten Hove works closely with all kinds of organizations in the region on behalf of Microsoft. Microsoft is committed to making a meaningful contribution to the community around the data centers. For this we have knowledge, manpower, money and ideas. We now organize ‘listening sessions’ twice a year with all kinds of representatives from the region. During these sessions we discuss the developments in the region and investigate how we can make a contribution.
We now have three topics – we call them programmes – on which we mainly focus. These are Digital Skills, Employment and Sustainability & Environment.
For example, we help students and employees of non-profit organizations with their digital skills. We have teaching projects for this in primary, vocational and higher education. And together with the organization Climate Cleanup , we have local initiatives around food forests that we are now going to support.
Cooperation with ROCs
To promote employment, we work together with roc Hoorn and ROC Kop van Noord in Schagen. There we have built a real working ‘data center lab’ where students can experiment with and get various official certifications that help them further on the labor market. Approximately 400 MBO students use it every year . We are also now a recognized apprenticeship company. We currently have an average of 8 interns and we hope to be able to expand that number.
We also use these data center labs to help people who want to retrain or have not been active in the labor market for a while. We can help them with their training to become a technical data center employee or, for example, an ICT service desk employee.
Who works at the data center?
Microsoft notices that there are many questions about working in a data center. Nick Hengelman is ‘data center operations manager’ and ultimately responsible for the data center in Middenmeer. He gave an explanation.
First the numbers: there are currently 375 FTE positions in Middenmeer. Altogether , there are about  permanent employees at the data center. They are spread over more than 27 different ‘types’ of jobs. About three-quarters of these people live in North Holland. Microsoft wants to recruit as many people as possible locally. The work in the data center is divided into five teams.
The logistics team ensures that the computer servers in the data center are placed, maintained and, if necessary, renewed. They are also responsible for the logistics of everything that is loose and stuck in the data center.
The IT team ensures that everything is connected properly and that the computer servers can also run and all computer data of our customers is managed and processed: from e-mails to video conferences and from business administrations to scientific calculations.
The technical team takes care of all supporting technical installations. They ensure that the data center can function. This team therefore mainly focuses on the electricity supply and the cooling of the computer servers.
In addition, we have a security team. This team takes care of the safety of our people and protection of the building and the data of our customers.
Finally, there is a facility team. They ensure that the campus remains clean and tidy, mow the grass and ensure that everyone else can do their work, because the catering and household services are also covered by this team.
Microsoft Data Centers & the Pandemic
The need for cloud services and data centers in the Netherlands has grown enormously during the pandemic, said Director of Operations Michel N’Guettia. Many companies have ‘placed their organization in the Cloud‘ to enable their employees to work together seamlessly from home. At the same time , all kinds of new online services have emerged that also use the Cloud. Think of remote video consultations at hospitals and the thousands of schools that had to organize online classes en masse. All these organizations choose to no longer arrange their data management with servers in their own building, but to outsource this. This is not only more efficient for those companies. It is – according to various studies – also more sustainable. The data centers do consume a lot of power, but that is less than thousands of ‘own’ computer servers in the basements of thousands of companies and organizations.
The enormous growth in online services is also not limited to the Netherlands. This applies worldwide. In Europe, Microsoft is developing data centers in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Spain. Worldwide, Microsoft now has more than 200 data centers in 34 countries.
For those who want to read more: Microsoft has written down all the questions – and answers – that were asked during the online information meeting in a document.
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