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With expanding data center footprints, companies need to balance their business and sustainability goals.
Fast-paced digital transformation and the rising adoption of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), machine learning (ML), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain have led to an exponential rise in data generation, resulting in expanded data center footprints across the globe. It is estimated that by 2025 175+ zettabytes of data would be generated, stored, and processed.
The data center market is growing rapidly, underpinning the digital economy. While this is promising, it’s estimated that data centers will consume as much as 1% of global electricity, leading to an increase in greenhouse emissions. There is a compelling need for organizations to strike a fine balance between supporting business requirements and fulfilling their sustainability goals.
Governments across the world are implementing new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality. Some have put in place financial incentives and subsidies that encourage businesses to adopt environmental-friendly practices. Europe’s Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, signed by 100+ European data center operators and associations, outlines aggressive data center efficiency and renewable energy goals. The involvement of these firms that account for over 90% of the data center capacity available in Europe represents a significant endorsement of the pact and the industry's commitment to becoming climate-neutral by 2030.
Barriers in transition
Companies are often fraught with multiple challenges during their transition to green data centers.
Although companies are taking steps towards net-zero goals, many struggle when upgrading to green data centers. From a dearth of expertise to the lack of clear regulations and standards, the challenges make it difficult to define and measure strategic green data center practices and technologies. Some of the key challenges are:
In many enterprises, there are only incremental changes to existing technology. These changes revolve around hardware upgrade rather than a holistic vision that can drive green DC adoption. This adds to the complexity in DC management.
Adopting a policy of green IT sourcing requires changes from the top down. With the exponential surge in data volumes, there are challenges in devising the right energy policy and strategy. What is more, the fear and anxiety of downtime due to dependency on a sole source makes adoption of green DC a non-starter.
Steps to green data centers
Making data centers greener is now an imperative with increasing pressure on companies to become more sustainable businesses conscious of their impact to the environment. Here are four steps to do that:
Implement power management systems that automatically shut down or reduce power usage of idle servers and other IT equipment. This will reduce overall energy consumption.
Monitor energy usage to identify areas for improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon footprint.
Deploy energy-efficient technologies—such as low-power servers, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, and efficient cooling systems—to reduce the energy required to support IT operations.
Use renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to meet energy needs and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
For companies that don’t own data centers and depend on colocation datacenter or cloud services provider, they should choose the providers that use renewable energy sources and greener data centers.