While we rely on data centers to complete many of our daily business and personal tasks, operating, maintaining, and expanding this critical technology can come with staggering environmental costs. According to some estimates, the data center industry — from server cooling to new builds — makes up approximately 1% of the planet’s power consumption. Running a single supercomputer, for example, can require as much power as entire neighborhoods.
With Earth Day (April 22, 2023) around the corner, we’re taking time to reflect on our industry’s impact on the environment and the technologies and initiatives that are driving sustainable progress.
Here are the 10 most important data center sustainability stories that we’ve covered so far this year:
1. Hot in Here: Is Raising Temperatures in Data Centers Good for Hardware?
By increasing data center operating temperatures beyond the standard range, Equinix hopes to reduce energy consumption, decrease carbon impact, and help its customers reach sustainability goals. Experts, however, are divided on the impact of higher temperatures on hardware safety and longevity. Here, we investigate the potential risks and benefits of Equinix's initiative, and its potential to set a precedent for the industry.
2. Sustainable Data Centers: Just How Green Is Your Cloud Migration?
Cloud migration often — but not always! — leads to energy savings and reduced carbon emissions. Before you start migrating, make sure the cloud really is more energy efficient than on-prem solutions for your workloads. In this article, DCK contributor Chris Tozzi discusses key factors, including data center size, location, energy sourcing, and workload configuration, to help your team assess and compare the sustainability of your on-prem and cloud options.
3. Data Center Greenwashing: Schneider Launches Tools to Help Avoid Fines
In January, Schneider Electric released several tools to help data center operators and MSPs comply with proposed SEC rule changes and share proof of compliance with new emissions standards. Learn more about these tools, including a data center lifecycle carbon dioxide calculator and a carbon footprint calculator, and their aim to help businesses maintain transparency and avoid potential “greenwashing” fines.
4. New Tool to Measure and Improve Data Center Energy Efficiency
Schneider Electric’s calculators aren’t the only new sustainability tools on the market. In March, The Green Grid (TGG) launched its updated Total Cost of Ownership calculation tool. Designed to assess and improve data center energy efficiency, TGG’s updated tool focuses on the impact of different liquid cooling methods on a data center's carbon emissions alongside its financial and operational ROI.
5. Tougher Reporting Mandates Ahead for Data Centers
“2023,” writes Rina Diane Caballar, “is shaping up to be a year of increased regulations for the data center industry.” In this article, Caballar reviews upcoming regulatory initiatives focused on operational, energy, and environmental performance reporting and how data centers in both the U.S. and Europe can prepare to meet these mandates.
6. How Data Center Location Impacts ESG Success
A data center’s location can play an important role in achieving — or missing — its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. From considering access to renewable energy sources to efficient transportation, this guide breaks down what to look for when selecting a sustainable data center location.
7. How UChicago Gained Efficiency With a DEEP Certification
In this case study, we look at how the University of Chicago leveraged the Data Center Efficiency Evolution Program (DEEP) to find creative and effective solutions to reduce costs, carbon emissions, and operational downtime across multiple systems. Through this process, UChicago’s data center can better support the local environment and community while still delivering results.
8. The Devil Is in the Details When Assessing Data Center Sustainability
According to a recent report by Cirrus Nexus, dynamic factors, such as time of day and year, can significantly impact a data center’s actual carbon emissions. Instead, the report suggests that truly optimizing data center sustainability requires a look beyond average carbon intensity for a nuanced and granular evaluation of energy sourcing patterns on a continuous basis.
9. Technical Debt and the Sustainable Data Center
Technical debt, or inefficient processes and resources that data centers could improve but choose not to, can often result in higher resource consumption and hurt sustainability efforts. In this story, we look at how CIOs can reduce technical debt, and in turn improve the sustainability of their data centers, through tracking and managing their data resources.
10. Why You Can't Power Your Data Center Only With Renewables – But Should Try Anyway
Finally, in this article, Chris Tozzi looks at the physical and financial limitations and challenges of powering data centers with renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and geothermal. However, as the headline suggests, investing in “clean” energy for data centers is still worthwhile. Even a partial application of renewables can result in a significant reduction in carbon emissions.
Although it may not yet be practical for most data centers to run only on renewables, we should still try — for the sake of our planet’s health and the livelihoods of generations to come.
Happy Earth Day! Which of these stories is most important to you? Let us know in the comments below!