A joint keynote address at BlueTech Forum, which takes place in Dublin on 6-7 June, will be co-presented by Jim Hanna, Director of Datacenter Sustainability for Microsoft and Emilio Tenuta, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability for Ecolab. Collaboration between the two global companies has seen Ecolab’s expertise in smart water management enhanced by Microsoft cloud computing technology to address efficiency in industrial water use.

In advance of the Forum, BlueTech chief executive Paul O’Callaghan finds out more about this unusual pairing and the benefits such a model can bring to corporate water sustainability.

Corporate water users are looking to underpin their business and sustainability strategies with real-time data and analysis in water risk management. That such a model does not yet exist in any substantial way means the partnership between global leaders in smart water management and cloud-based solutions is already arousing interest in the sector.

Emilio Tenuta, Ecolab’s Vice President of Corporate Sustainability, explains how the relationship came about.

“We’ve been a customer of Microsoft for some time, as users of their CRM [customer relationship management] platform,” Tenuta explains, “and they’ve also been a customer of ours. We’ve been working in their data centres from a water management perspective.

“We realized that there was a lot that we can build on, especially when you think that Ecolab has 36,000 data controllers out in the world and more than 27 billion data points that we’re managing at our customers’ sites. Microsoft’s Azure platform helps us manage all those data points across different industries.

“We collect all that data and use Microsoft’s Azure cloud-based platform to aggregate and analyse and compute all those data points. For Ecolab, those are about water because that’s where our expertise is, for another Microsoft customer it might be about something totally different.”

Technology partnerships

Jim Hanna, Director of Datacenter Sustainability for Microsoft says, “The partnership with Ecolab means we can leverage our understanding of these types of large-scale partnerships along with the technology and make it happen. The Azure platform combines everything from computer storage to developing very secure ways to manage very complex data. The availability of these technology solutions brings so much more robustness to conversations regarding water.

“Microsoft plans to be part of that conversation in the long-term. But for me, it’s also about creating a virtuous cycle of improvement in the cloud, powered by the cloud. That means using these cloud-enabled insights to drive new efficiencies within our data centres. Since these facilities make up about 70% of the company’s water footprint, so it’s pretty critical that we focus on the impact.

“As Emilio said, we’re each other’s customers already, so this is just an elevation of that partnership, taking advantage of each other’s skills to scale it up and create a product that is now available across the industry.”

Calculating water risk

One visible outcome of the Microsoft-Ecolab partnership is the Water Risk Monetizer, industry’s first publicly available financial modeling tool, which enables businesses to factor current and future water risks into decision-making. Developed by Ecolab in partnership with Microsoft and Trucost, the Water Risk Monetizer helps businesses understand water-related risks and quantify them in financial terms.

“The Water Risk Monetizer uses local water basin datasets, economic techniques and scientific methodologies to monetize water-related business risks,” says Hanna. “Research suggests that half of the world’s population will be dealing with water stress conditions, where demand for water exceeds supply, by 2030. Clearly, these are unprecedented times and in unprecedented times, you need unconventional partnerships.

Emilio Tenuta explains further, “One of the things that we’ve been working with Microsoft on is risk related to water at different sites around the world. That’s obviously important for global companies like Microsoft, for their ability to operate, their relationship with local communities and corporate goals.”

“For any company, the first step is to assess the monetised risk in order to identify and prioritize where to implement water strategies. The second part is understanding how water is being utilised in those hot spots. Finally, once a company understands where these opportunities for solutions and expertise are, they can begin to manage water differently.”

“By using smart technology with thousands of advanced sensors, we can process millions of data-points around the world. This is where the cloud comes in, because it’s about scale.

“Think about the complexity of having all this data input at each site and then think about multiplying that across many sites for Microsoft, for example, – and then if you think about all the different industries that Ecolab supports. The Azure platform provides us the ability to do that because these sensors use wireless technology to try to capture all this information and pool it at a local level, and then aggregate it globally.”

Water resilience

Ecolab and Microsoft have worked closely together to address water challenges at Microsoft’s data centre in the US city of San Antonio, where the cloud, smart technology and the expertise of both companies has driven hard on water resilience.

“Obviously Texas has been facing its share of water stress,” says Tenuta, “so at the San Antonio data centre we were looking to better understand the amount of fresh water that was used for the critical cooling system to cool the servers. We wanted to optimise that fresh water use.

“We have a smart technology called 3D TRASAR which gives us the ability to take 10 different water quality data points every six seconds. We can then analyse that information to optimise the water chemistry to get the desired result in terms of minimising or optimising our water use.

“Implementing that was step one, but Microsoft wanted to drive significant reduction in water use at that site because it was in a water stress area, so we worked with the San Antonio water authority to look at the possibility of water reuse and taking in grey water instead of fresh water. By using 3D TRASAR Technology, we developed a plan that allows Microsoft to use multiple water quality make-ups by optimising all of them without having performance issues.

“That led to about 58 million gallons (220,000m3) of water savings in a given year.”

Global relationships

“In a broad sense, for Microsoft the benefit is understanding how we can be a part of broader solutions,” says Jim Hanna. “The challenges that we face around water scarcity and water resource management are not isolated to individual companies, so wherever we can step in to help achieve solutions that cross multiple boundaries and borders using the frameworks we have globally, we want to help make that happen.”

Emilio Tenuta agrees, “The challenge we have around water is an opportunity to implement smart water management. It gives us an opportunity to think about the importance of data in that journey to deliver resilence at a local level.

“I think that is really the benefit of coming to BlueTech, where we can approach a number of different stakeholders that want to hear that story.”

The Water Risk Monetizer tool is available at no cost, visit www.waterriskmonetizer.com.

A joint keynote address co-presented by Jim Hanna, Director of Datacenter Sustainability for Microsoft and Emilio Tenuta, Vice President for Corporate Sustainability, Ecolab will take place at BlueTech Forum.

Jim Hanna will also take part in a roundtable on The Internet of Water – digital water chaired by Ralph Exton, Chief Marketing Officer, GE Water.

BlueTech Forum takes place in Dublin on 6-7 June 2017. For more information, please visit www.bluetechforum.com