Top 10 Data Center Sustainability Stories of 2023

From liquid cooling to hardware recycling, here's a quick wrap-up of Data Center Knowledge's top data center sustainability coverage published this year.

Hannah Wright

December 28, 2023

4 Min Read
Innovative green technologies, smart systems and recycling for environmental sustainability, network of isometric concepts
ElenaBs / Alamy

Increasing volumes of data and growing demand for artificial intelligence this year have made the search for sustainable data storage more urgent. 

Data Center Knowledge's top 10 data center sustainability stories of the year examine the concerns surrounding data center sustainability—such as energy consumption, water conservation, noise pollution, hardware reuse, and data center cooling—and explore the many measures being taken to combat data centers’ environmental impact.  

1. Is Liquid Cooling Adoption by Data Centers Becoming a Zero-Sum Game? 

The data center market is seeing unprecedented growth in liquid cooling deployments. Data center operators are concentrating their investments on higher-density equipment earmarked for AI workloads—the class of server that should be choice candidates for liquid cooling deployments. However, demand for high-efficiency air cooling is also increasing. This article explores this phenomenon. 

2. The Environmental Impact of Lithium-ion Batteries – How Green Are They Really? 

Lithium-ion batteries have many benefits, hence their popularity, and with many states aiming to end fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the coming years, battery power will have increasing importance. However, there is considerable and growing concern over the environmental implications of lithium-ion battery production. Read about these issues, as well as practices to help reduce the impact (including recycling and improved sourcing and design) here.  

Related:Data Center Sustainability: 5 Overlooked Strategies for Improvement

3. Is Chip Cooling the Answer to the Data Center Cooling Problem? 

Data centers consume a huge amount of energy, and chip cooling alone can account for 40% of overall energy usage in a data center. As such, researchers are exploring chip cooling methods to mitigate the energy burden and improve efficiency within them. This article looks at the research by Purdue University, a recipient of a $1.8 million grant under the COOLERCHIPS program, which aims to revolutionize chip cooling methods through innovative approaches such as two-phase jet impingement and direct liquid contact. 

4. 5 Key Steps for Successful Data Center Consolidation  

Consolidating your data center can save money, increase operational efficiency, and reduce risk. However, it’s important to develop a detailed plan before you begin the process. The five steps outlined in this guide provide details on making an inventory of your assets, identifying the consolidation opportunities, considering moving workloads out of the data center, assessing energy requirements, and monitoring the workloads post-consolidation.  

Related:Could ‘Flying Data Centers’ Solve the Industry’s Sustainability Woes?

5. Get Off My Lawn …You Crazy Data Centers! 

Bill Kleyman recounts his encounter with protestors at the DICE Bisnow event in Virginia. The group’s concerns included data center greenwashing and dishonesty, water conservation, energy consumption, and encroachment on rural areas. In this article, he engages with these concerns and discusses how the industry can move forward while striving to be better neighbors.  

6. What to Do With Outdated Data Center Hardware 

Servers, network switches, and other hardware resources that power data centers will eventually need replacing. However, rather than throwing these away, there are several ways to make use of them. Businesses that want to optimize costs and reduce carbon footprints should ensure they use their hardware for as long as reasonably possible before looking for creative ways to recycle the hardware—for example, repurposing the hardware within the business or reusing hardware components.  

7. New Tool to Measure and Improve Data Center Energy Efficiency 

The Green Grid has released a new tool, tggTCO, which it said demonstrates how different liquid cooling methods affect a data center’s financial and operational ROI. The tool promises to boost data center power consumption by 50% by allowing analysts to evaluate the tradeoffs and potential ROI before any major data center design and build. 

8. Why Data Centers Are Loud, and How to Quiet Them Down 

Data centers cause noise pollution and are becoming even noisier as businesses find ways to pack ever-greater densities of equipment into data centers. This article explains how you can minimize noise levels to benefit your employees and neighbors—mitigation strategies mentioned here include soundproofing, liquid cooling, and optimizing airflow. 

9. COOLERCHIPS Project Takes On Data Centers' Chip Cooling Challenge 

An increasingly important challenge is to find a new approach to cooling data centers that is both energy-efficient and scalable. The University of Florida is one recipient of a COOLERCHIPS grant, and it is using its funding to develop a solution for cooling CPUs and GPUs. Read about this research here.  

10. Can DCIM Software Drive Data Center Sustainability Efforts? 

DCIM software provides a centralized view of all the elements that make up a complete data center, such as compute servers, storage, networking equipment, and cooling systems. DCIM is good for monitoring power use and finding hot spots of excess consumption, but it is lacking in helping achieve sustainability goals. 

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