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Is There Such a Thing as a Green Data Center? Sustainability and the Data Center

Climate change awareness is growing. With every passing day, the world’s population is understanding more about their carbon footprint and how it affects the climate. This growing awareness has led to increased interest in a more significant concerted effort to create a sustainable lifestyle for future humans.

The IT industry relies on large amounts of electricity, and data centers consume large amounts of power and emit vast quantities of heat and noise. In addition to the energy needs to run the hardware, data centers need even more electricity to cool IT systems. Most rely on generators that burn fossil fuel as an alternative power source in the event of power issues.

The industry is aware of these issues, and there is a greater emphasis on sustainability in the cloud. Innovative technologies are being introduced to lower carbon footprint and increase efficiency. Cloud providers have invested vast amounts of money in green technology. As a result, customers expect providers to minimize their environmental footprint.

Join us as we discover how green the data center is and learn some innovative steps to make the IT industry as green as possible.

How Much Is Power Needed to Run the Cloud?

If you ever step inside a data center, you will enter a noisy, power-hungry environment. You will be shrouded by hot aisles, cold aisles, and a clean, dry atmosphere. Servers, storage, and networking appliances draw power from the grid with an insatiable thirst. As a result, data center power consumption levels continue to grow yearly.

Traditional on-premise data centers are using much less energy these days. This is simply because everyone is moving to the cloud, so the number of on-premise data centers has dropped significantly in recent years. So, unsurprisingly, cloud data centers are consuming an ever-increasing amount of electricity.

It is estimated that the total electricity usage of all global data centers is about 105 TWh (terawatt hours), about 6% of all the electricity consumed on Earth, which is estimated at around 24,000 TWh. This data is from May 2021, so these numbers are likely even higher now, but Cloud providers total approximately 72 twH, roughly 70% of data center power consumption.

What Is Being Done to Combat This Threat?

These figures may seem depressing, but much work is being done to make the data center green. As technology evolves, servers and data center appliances are getting more energy efficient, components are using less power for equal or greater performance, and cloud providers are managing server capacity to reduce wastage.

Changes to the manufacturing process of computing components are taking shape by using fewer natural resources, reducing pollution, and increasing the use of recycled and reused materials. It may seem surprising, but the manufacturing of computing components has the most significant impact on the environment. For example, silicone mining is dirty, inefficient work that pollutes the atmosphere. As a result, manufacturers are switching away from cheaper Chinese factories which may have a more significant environmental impact.

Cloud providers are switching to greener data centers that use environmental cooling solutions. Modern data centers pump cold water from rivers into their cooling systems and either continue to reuse or purify it and return it to the water source. In some regions, water is pumped to farmers to irrigate their crops! In the cooler months, water stewardship conservation switches off water usage, instead cooling the data center using the air.

More data centers are being powered by wind and solar power farms, and Microsoft has even trialed an underwater availability zone. The R&D project was hugely successful and involved sinking several self-contained capsules underwater. The reliability of the components was a surprise to all, with no severe hardware issues during the trial.

Use Technology to Make the Data Center Greener

We have already mentioned hot and cold aisles in the data center. This conserves energy by using the server to manage airflow. The front of a server sucks air in, and the rear acts as an exhaust. Server racks are positioned opposite each other, with cold air pumped up the middle aisle (feeding two rows of servers), and hot air is pumped into the rear of each row. Air conditioning units suck the hot air out, creating a highly efficient airflow environment.

Cloud providers are using AI to assist in data center cooling, and the data center is full of sensors for temperature and humidity. The data is fed into an AI algorithm that controls cooling and power consumption, increasing energy efficiency even more. It has been suggested that AI can save up to 40% on cooling costs.

Modern data centers are switching away from fossil fuels for generators. These are used as backup power sources. Despite being irregularly used, they are dirty and burn thousands of gallons of diesel to keep running. Generators are only ever used for testing load or running data centers if there is a power cut, but when used, they can run for days or weeks. A Dutch data center recently installed hydrogen-powered fuel cells. This saved a staggering 78,000 tons of carbon in a single year!

What Can You Do To Make The Cloud Greener?

If possible, switch off your non-essential servers when not in use. This could be in the evenings or weekends, even when one of your employees is on annual leave. Shutdown and StartUp scripts can be created using Infrastructure as Code tools such as Terraform. Combine this approach by right-sizing your instances. Only use an instance plan that you need. Overprovisioning is wasteful and costs you money.

Cut down on e-waste by responsibly destroying legacy and redundant computer hardware. Recycling locations for computer hardware are readily available. Avoid placing in the trash – computer components contain toxic materials like lead, cadmium, mercury, and chromium, so be mindful when equipment reaches its end of life.

Data centers inherently consume a great deal of power, and companies that rely heavily on cloud services are facing difficulties when considering their commitment to green initiatives. While data centers are generally designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible with current tech, new technologies will probably make more energy-efficient data centers possible in the future. As new data centers are built due to overwhelming popularity over the coming years, the decisions made in the building process will prove critical for future generations. In addition, because the information technology industry must reinvent its systems every two or three years, data center operators need to remind themselves of corporate responsibility in continuously supporting sustainable development.

We offer cold aisle, hot aisle cooling, and shared hosting services that can reduce carbon footprint. In addition, we are always looking for ways to enhance our cooling systems to continue to try to reduce our carbon footprint. Give us a call today to discuss various shared and dedicated server hosting options [email protected] or 888-618-DATA (3282)

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