Sustainable and Green Data Centers: The Future is Now


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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Data centers consume a huge amount of power, which is why many organizations are seeking sustainable providers to reduce their environmental footprint, save on costs and align themselves with environmentally conscious consumers.

Article 4 Minutes
Sustainable and Green Data Centers: The Future is Now

Experts estimate that data center storage and transmission accounts for roughly 2% of the world’s energy consumption. Companies across the world are being held accountable for their impact on the environment and encouraged to tackle their emissions and commit to net zero carbon.

So what are organizations currently doing to offset their carbon footprint and what does the future hold for green data centers?

What is a sustainable data center?

A sustainable or green data center is a facility that contains servers for the remote storage, processing and transmission of information, similar to a regular data center, but employs energy-efficient technologies to minimize its impact on the environment.

Although huge strides have been made to reduce this percentage, designing, developing and operating sustainable data center infrastructures poses significant challenges for IT personnel. The initial costs involved in going green can be off-putting, but companies must weigh up this investment with the long-term benefits such as increased operational efficiency, fewer overhead costs and a reduced carbon footprint.

The need to go green

Data centers are more interconnected than ever before, and the adoption of cloud connectivity means the sheer amount of information being stored, processed and transmitted within them is unprecedented.

IDC estimates that the global data load will increase to a staggering 175 Zettabytes (ZB) by 2025. Managing this amount of data yields significant operational and sustainability challenges for organizations and requires them to take steps to execute greener and more efficient methods of space and power consumption to offset their carbon footprint.

Governments and sustainability-focused organizations are increasingly implementing regulations to minimize human impact on climate change, which has put pressure on data center operators to reduce their energy consumption. Additionally, consumers and investors are becoming more concerned with their impact on the environment and making more ethical choices to purchase from companies that embrace sustainability practices in their branding and data center energy consumption.

How data centers are going green

The need for green data centers has been noticed, and Google Cloud research indicates that 90% of IT leaders say that sustainability is a priority for their departments and 67% have already put targets in place to reduce their effect on the environment. So, what are forward-thinking companies doing to make their data centers more sustainable?

1. Use renewable energy sources

One of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions is for data centers to switch to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or geothermal.

Although many companies will be unable to shift entirely, they can still reduce their reliance on fossil fuels by running their backup generator using renewable energy.

2. Implement green building construction standards

There are ways to build sustainability into the design of a data center from the very beginning using green building certification standards. This refers to a set of ratings that are used to assess a building’s performance in relation to sustainability practices.

Data centers that use innovative data hall layout designs can maximize operational efficiency and minimize waste by aiming for better power usage effectiveness (PUE) levels and optimizing cold-to-hot airflow.

3. Shift to water-efficient and free cooling technologies

A huge portion of data center power usage goes into cooling. Stable temperatures and humidity levels are required for servers to function effectively and to maximize the lifespan of equipment. Although operating servers at maximum heat can reduce overall energy consumption, this poses significant risks when it comes to hardware failure and downtime.

Evaporative cooling that relies on water is much more energy efficient than the more traditional method of air cooling and can help reduce the facility’s carbon footprint. There are other innovative options to reduce power usage of cooling systems and manage temperature, such as covering the building’s exterior with plants like OVHcloud did with its most recent data center in Frankfurt.

4. Upgrade legacy equipment

Often, legacy equipment will not have been manufactured with energy efficiency in mind. Going green and keeping up with technology means data centers must upgrade their infrastructures to consume less power, and correctly dispose of equipment that is no longer operational.

The future of sustainable and green data centers

As data centers focus on implementing sustainability practices to reach the goal of carbon net zero, there are some emerging trends gaining traction that’ll surely influence the current trajectory.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning play a major role in shaping the future of industrial and commercial environments. Software integrations that utilize this technology can empower data centers to be more efficient by automating processes and powering down machinery that isn’t in use. Moreover, they can help companies to anticipate and optimize their energy and water consumption.

A staggering 80% of US consumers care about the use of renewable energy. Enterprises know that they need to do their part to minimize power consumption and mitigate carbon emissions towards a more sustainable future. Furthermore, green data centers lead to more efficient operations and reduced costs, making it the smart choice for any business.

With 62% of major tech players already assessing their IT infrastructures to ensure they meet their sustainability targets, it’s safe to say that green initiatives aren’t going anywhere.

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