Sustainable data centers are becoming more common today than they have ever been. Data centers have come a long way since they were first built. Back then, they had no consideration for the environment around them and consumed more energy than was necessary. Today’s data centers have become smarter, more efficient, and more sustainable.
What is a sustainable data center?
A sustainable data center is a data center that uses fewer resources and generates less waste than a traditional data center. Traditional data centers can be pretty wasteful; they use large amounts of energy to run servers, which generate heat, and then have to use cooling systems to maintain the temperature in the server room.
As more data centers are built around the world, information technology professionals must consider the environmental impact of running their businesses. If you’re interested in creating a sustainable data center, there are many reasons why you should consider going green instead of doing nothing at all.
As organizations look to reduce their carbon footprints, sustainable building solutions are becoming more prevalent. A green architecture approach allows them to power their IT systems using renewable energy sources such as wind or solar. This helps them reduce their carbon footprint while saving money on operating costs.
Sustainable design strategies allow organizations to eliminate upfront capital expenses by taking an incremental approach that supports reuse and reduction in the consumption of resources by their users. Another area where organizations can help the environment is with their recycling efforts. In some cases, companies should invest in new servers instead of trying to repair old ones that are no longer functioning correctly when broken down for recycling.
Why do we need sustainable data centers?
The data center industry has grown tremendously over the past few decades, and it’s projected to reach over $100B by 2020. Although the market is expanding rapidly, there are concerns about its environmental impact. Data centers use electricity, and their facilities can consume water and natural resources. The industry is taking measures to become more sustainable: using renewable energy, reusing water, recycling waste, and reducing the number of materials used for buildings.
The goal of a sustainable data center is to achieve zero waste. The traditional model has relied heavily on fossil fuels, resulting in higher costs and poor performance. Moving toward renewable energy sources and efficient use of resources will allow for lowered costs and better performance over the long term.
To achieve this goal, we must first understand where the data center is in its lifecycle by identifying its current state. Data centers can be broken into three key areas: design, implementation, and operations. Once we have identified where the data center is in its lifecycle, we can focus on what needs to be improved upon to begin down the path of a more sustainable facility.
How are they different from regular data centers?
To understand the difference between a sustainable and regular data center, you first need to know what constitutes a standard data center. The average data center is a large, climate-controlled room packed with racks of servers, cooling systems, and power supplies.
The typical strategy for keeping these rooms from overheating is to blast them with air conditioning. Unfortunately, this method uses an enormous amount of electricity. It also requires vast amounts of water to produce that electricity—water that may be used inefficiently (as in the case of coal-fired power plants) or even harmful to the environment (nuclear power plants).
The first thing companies are doing to make their data centers more sustainable is getting rid of the old equipment that isn’t as efficient as the new technology. Companies have switched to newer servers, storage systems, and networking products that use less energy and cost less money. This is excellent news for everyone involved because these upgrades help protect the environment and save companies money in the long run.
One significant change impacting the data center industry is switching from water cooling to air cooling for server racks. The water cooling method takes nearly three times as much energy to cool the servers compared to air cooling methods.
It takes so much energy because of how inefficient water cooling is. When a server gets hot, it needs to be cooled down quickly, so it doesn’t overheat, which means lots of cold water has to be circulated through it constantly.
Tips for Sustainability
The first step is to manage your energy consumption. Invest in low-power, more efficient servers than older, bulkier versions. The newer servers also use less power than the network equipment they run on, so upgrade the network gear, too.
Use renewable sources of energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines. When available, the servers will draw on these sources and store spare batteries that can be used at night or when renewables are not easily accessible.
These facilities typically don’t rely on grid power alone but on generators powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). LNG burns cleaner than diesel and has lower emission levels, making it better for the environment.
Encourage employees to reduce their energy usage at work by turning off computers and monitors when not in use, even for short periods (for example, during lunch breaks). If your organization has a gym or cafeteria, encourage employees to take the stairs instead of elevators to and from their offices.
The data center industry needs to react to the rising energy costs and environmental concerns of our modern world. The build-out of new data centers continues at a frantic pace, with little regard for the future cost to the business that relies on it.
Several things can be done to make data centers more efficient. One of these things is investing in a green data center immediately. Green data centers prioritize sustainability and cost-effectiveness. This is a win-win solution for everyone, so it doesn’t contribute any waste or carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and is better for the environment.
However, there is a growing movement in the industry toward sustainable data center design and management. There are many paths that industry leaders are taking to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and other unsustainable energy sources. Some have even implemented plans to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 or 2030.
Data centers are responsible for a considerable portion of the world’s energy consumption and environmental impact, so it’s not surprising that there is such a big push to make them more sustainable. Data center managers balance power needs with environmental impact and efficiency while maintaining reliable uptime. The three main areas to focus on in a data center when looking at sustainability are site location, building design and HVAC systems, and virtualization.