April 20, 2022

Going Green: The Path to Data Center Efficiency and Sustainability

by: Align

According to a report by Pike Research, it was estimated that, by 2021, cloud computing could have helped cut the global IT carbon footprint by as much as 38 percent—depending, that is, on the development of energy efficient data centers.

The energy footprint of the IT sector is estimated at 7 percent of global electricity consumption, according to Greenpeace International. While the data center and colocation space is a small part of the entire IT industry, the power consumption it takes is quite significant. In fact, the US Department of Energy reports that data centers consume 10 to 50 times the energy per floor space of a typical commercial office building, and collectively account for approximately 2% of the total U.S. electricity use.  

As the numbers keep stacking amid growing concern for climate change, government entities from the State of California to New Zealand are proposing heightened regulations around carbon emissions. And, with more enterprises already taking the leap toward energy efficiency to cut data center costs, many are pivoting to find providers with a solid sustainability strategy who can offer green, cost-effective data center options.  

What is a Green Data Center?

At its core, a “green” data center is a sustainable data center—designed to minimize its impact on the environment by focusing on key elements, from power and water utilization to CO2 creation. When it comes to sustainability and data centers, energy is the most critical factor. 

For existing data centers, there are a number of ways to become more sustainable, including upgrades to cooling and electrical systems, air management, low-consumption servers with natural ventilation, heat recovery, renewable energy sources, and more. 

New, green data centers are built with sustainability in mind in order to save energy or eliminate energy waste, particularly in the following categories: 

FY22Q2_Going Green_Blog Asset

The changes required for sustainability can be costly and complex. However, many organizations are tackling the challenge with creativity, from a growing interest in locating facilities in cold regions to enable free air cooling, or just making the transition to edge computing. Plus, the long-term advantages cannot be overstated, including significant cost savings in operations and maintenance. 

Green Data Center Benefits:

  • Delays costly expenditures – Data centers cost a lot. Why? They have expenditures for power use estimates. Green data centers eliminate this excess by only using the power they need.  
  • Cuts electricity and energy consumption – Reducing energy use not only reaps economic benefits but is significantly better for the environment. Newer, greener equipment is not only more capable, but more energy efficient.  
  • Lowers carbon emissions – Data centers contribute to 2% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. Lowering these will not only shrink your carbon footprint and operating expenses but also benefit overall air quality. 
  • Decreases water use – Climate change means reservoirs are at all-time lows. Reducing water usage in cooling systems will boost sustainability while saving energy and operating costs. 
  • Reduces waste output – Green data centers not only utilize more efficient PDUs to monitor power usage, but also strategize how to reclaim unused power, including excess heat utilization.  

How to Go Green:

  • Minimize building footprints. Design data centers with fewer construction materials or low-emission building materials, carpets and paints during the build. Aim for better PUE (power usage effectiveness) levels, which also results in a smaller carbon footprint. 
  • Update cable management systems.  Poor cable management can block vents, fans, and airflow in general, leading to rising power and HVAC needs. Efficient cable management maintains hot/cold aisles, air separation, even if it is just blanking panels in conjunction with aisle containment. 
  • Replace inefficient or legacy servers. Estimates show that up to a fifth of all servers are sitting idle while still consuming power and other resources. Make sure all data center equipment that is no longer in use is decommissioned properly and turned off.  
  • Utilize water-efficient and free cooling technologies. Tap into reclaimed water supplies where available to minimize your use of potable water.  
  • Dabble in renewables. This includes alternative energy such as photovoltaic technology, heat pumps, evaporative cooling tech, and wind. The goal is to lower reliance on fossil fuels, which doesn’t just reduce the carbon footprint, but also the overall impact on the environment.  
  • Choose the low-temp location. Building facilities in regions where temperatures are low automatically take advantage of natural cooling.  
  • Implement e-waste recycling strategies. Reuse the energy powering cooling systems to heat neighboring facilities and other industrial structures.  

Align Data Center Solutions

For over three decades, the world’s leading enterprises have relied on the unparalleled expertise, best-practice processes and innovation of Align. From small regional firms to leading financial firms to leading global SAS providers, we've helped businesses successfully design and build, manage, operate and consolidate data centers to optimize performance, reliability, productivity and efficiency. Check out some of our recent data center transformations here. 

Revisiting your data center strategy or have questions regarding your critical infrastructure options? Speak to a data center specialist today.

Contact us today to learn how our team of data center experts can help your next project. 

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