In 2013 IBM CEO Ginni Rometty famously stated that data will be the natural resource of the 21st century — but does it have to come at the expense of our existing natural resources?
Fact: We generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, from Facebook posts, drafted emails and Skype messages, to online shopping, Google searches and Instagram photos. That’s 2.5 billion gigabytes of information.
And this number is only set to increase considering the growth of global internet users and the overall demand for data. The question then becomes, what do we do with all of this data? The answer: find somewhere to store and process it. And that’s where data centres come in. Google, for example, runs 14 data centres across the world (US, South America, Europe and Asia) to ensure that it can keep up with its search queries and keep its products running non-stop.
One of the advantages of the digital age was the paperless revolution — e-mail, e-books and e-commerce — with the whole idea behind it being as much of a cost saving exercise as it was about saving the environment. But with the amount of data that is generated and the subsequent need for data centres to handle the volume, have the environmental advantages been cancelled out?
Many would say yes. If fact, according to Computer Weekly, IT decision makers are in the dark when it comes to the environmental impact of their data centres. This is the finding of a recent survey conducted by The Green Grid: 43% of respondents (IT decision makers in UK, Germany, and France) said they didn’t have an energy efficiency strategy in place for their data centres.
Fact: ICT accounts for 10% of global energy usage — 50% more than the aviation industry.
Energy efficiency is becoming a critical issue for data centre operators and not just because there’s a push by the European Commission for operators to have at least 80% supplied by renewable energy by 2020. Going green not only helps taken the burden off of the environment and meet certain regulatory issues, but it also enables operators to be more cost-efficient, which is something they can pass on to their customers.
Of course implementing such a strategy and making newly built data centres more environmentally friendly might be easier than retrofitting existing sites. Regardless, we need to pay attention to all sites in order to be more efficient and meet those targets.
Pulsant has always had a focus on being more environmentally sound — we are a member of Green Grid, and our network of 10 UK-based data centres are ISO 14001 accredited. All power that is supplied to the sites is from renewable energy sources and each site operates to the EU code of conduct that promotes the use of ‘green’ best practices within those sites.
More than that, we’re taking care to update the electrical and network infrastructures of our sites to ensure optimal usage of energy. We’ve also invested in more advanced cooling methods — cooling accounts for the largest portion of energy usage in a data centre — which includes free air cooling, evaporative cooling and differential heat recovery systems, using latent heat energy to power cooling techniques.
As a result, within the data centre, energy efficiency encompasses more than just usage — there is energy management, reducing cable infrastructure requirements and improving redundancies with fewer connections to consider. Workload management is also becoming increasingly important —having software that can regulate equipment usage based on capacity is particularly beneficial in making the optimum usage of power.
As the demand for power continues to outweigh demand, and as we continue to create ever-more volumes of data, the role of the data centre — the environmentally friendly, energy efficient data centre — is critical. And even more so, having the right energy efficiency strategy in place, and managing the environmental impact of their sites, will contribute significantly to the success of data centre operators.