While data centers are undeniably valuable for better resource management and improved security, their efficiency is not without a price – it’s estimated that DC facilities account for around 4% of global energy consumption and as much as 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. More and more organizations are recognizing the need for greener solutions to combat these high eco-costs. Hence, the growing importance of sustainable data centers. What are they? And how are they beneficial – not just for the planet, but for the companies using them? Let’s dive into the future of eco-technology and the data center industry.
The rise of green data centers
Data centers have revolutionized our approach to IT resources – and their development is not slowing down. In fact, according to Market Report Analysis, “the global data center construction market size was valued at USD 213.53 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4% from 2023 to 2030.” And, while this may be a reason for joy for many, this news sparks concerns for ecologists. Data centers require a tremendous amount of energy and water, and given the rate at which Earth’s resources are depleting, their dynamic expansion may be more dangerous than beneficial.
That’s why key players in the IT world are already looking into the data centers of the future. Need proof? Meta’s data centers, completed in 2022, have a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.09 and water usage effectiveness (WUE) of 0.20. Microsoft forecasts that, by 2025, its data centers in Ireland will be fully supported by renewable energy from new projects supported by PPAs. And you know that if those companies are doing it, soon everyone will following suit. According to a study by Arizton Advisory & Intelligence, the total investment in the green data center industry across the globe will reach USD 35.58 billion by 2027.
What makes a data center sustainable?
As we can see, green data centers are a force to be reckoned with – but what does a new data center even mean? How are traditional data centers any different from their more eco-friendly counterparts?
Let’s take a look at the main factors that contribute to data center sustainability.
Energy efficiency is at top of our list. Why? Because that’s pretty much the baseline for a green data center. By utilizing cutting-edge liquid cooling methods, virtualization, and energy-saving hardware, these high-tech facilities reduce energy consumption drastically, and minimize carbon footprint. Given their size and number, this can work wonders for the planet in the long run.
The use of renewable energy sources
Solar, wind, hydro, or geothermal – alternative power sources are the key factors that make a data center green. By embracing renewable energy sources, sustainable facilities reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, maximize energy efficiency, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Efficient hardware design
At their core, data centers are facilities that run on hundreds of IT devices – so why not make them sustainable, too? A green data center is often comprised of energy-efficient hardware components, such as processors, memory modules, and storage devices that offer high performance while consuming less energy.
Commitment to responsible waste management
There’s no green data center without waste reduction and recycling. To achieve that, data center facilities often implement responsible disposal and recycling practices for outdated or malfunctioning equipment. This prevents hazardous materials from entering landfills, and contributes to the circular economy while reducing DCs’ environmental impact.
One more thing that can contribute to data center sustainability is construction. By incorporating elements of smart building design such as energy-saving systems for lighting, DC heat recovery for office heating, and separation of cold and warm zones to decrease energy consumption for air-conditioning (or even going for something simple, like locating data centers in cold areas to use as much passive chilling as possible), the DC facility naturally becomes greener on its own.
Monitoring and management
If you want to make sure you stay green, you need to be aware of how not green you are in the first place. That’s why sustainable data center operators often implement real-time monitoring of energy usage, temperature, and other environmental factors that help identify inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement. Data-driven insights enable proactive adjustments to optimize energy consumption and performance. Through meticulous design, monitoring, and reporting, green data centers set new standards for environmental responsibility in the tech industry.
Business benefits of data center sustainability
Sure, green data centers are great for the planet – but what’s in it for you? Are there any business benefits to a more sustainable data center? As it turns out, selecting a more eco-friendly DC can definitely aid your company, though the advantages. Just some of them are listed below.
1. Higher efficiency and better performance
Green data centers go hand in hand with state-of-the-art technology and advanced IT infrastructure – and that usually translates to higher levels of reliability and efficiency. By entrusting your data to eco-friendly data center operators, you can improve your uptime and overall IT operations performance significantly. With features such as an uninterruptible power supply, you don’t have to worry about downtime or disruptions, which can lead to increased productivity and customer satisfaction.
2. Cost savings
Energy-efficient technologies are amazing for the Earth, and they’re often much cheaper in the long run. By reducing carbon footprint, increasing power efficiency, and optimizing cooling systems, green data center operators can lower their operational expenses related to electricity and other resources, which is probably a piece of good news for their clients.
3. Innovation and technological leadership
Nobody wants to fall behind on modern technology. Like most business owners, you probably strive for the most advanced solutions available. A green data center is basically built upon cutting-edge tech, so investing in one can aid your position as an innovative leader in adopting modern IT solutions.
4. Scalability and flexibility
A green data center is usually based on modular designs and flexible infrastructure, which means it’s better prepared to deal with your unique business needs. This flexibility can give you a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.
5. Improved brand reputation
Let’s face it – the future is green. Everyone demands sustainability, and this is only going to grow with time. By supporting and choosing these types of initiatives, you enhance your business reputation and position on the market, which may attract new customers and result in more promising partnerships.
Green data center – future trends
While a lot has been done in the area of green data centers, there are still many obstacles to keeping data centers sustainable. The 2016 paper entitled “Green Data Centers: A Survey, Perspectives, and Future Directions” notes that: “Because of their exponential growth and under-utilization, data centers still pose several challenges, and several inadequately addressed research directions remain with regard to resource management.” From the virtualization of network functions and thermal control to the issue of power distribution in geographically scattered data centers, there are many directions to explore and incorporate in the future of sustainable data centers.