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Going Green: Sustainability Practices for Modern Data Centers

The digital transformation of global economy has seen an unprecedented rise in recent times. But more than ever, the current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of a digitally connected world & has forced organizations across the globe to adopt with a rapidly changing norm of working remotely. Also with a third of the global population confined indoors, the online networking, streaming & binge watching has also been on a substantial surge in viewership across platform such as NETFLIX, Amazon Prime etc.

So, whether it’s the billions of Google search results or the exponentially increasing database of social networkers or the unlimited entertainment media available at the ease of a click, all this data is stored on servers raked up inside Data Centers, which makes them undeniably the heart of modern economy.

However, vast amount of energy is required to keep afloat availability of data online which also leads to significant emissions from devices & network infrastructure utilities of data centers. This makes it imperative to study the various aspects of energy demand and consumption of a data center & how the latest technological innovations could lead to the optimization in design, building & operations of modern data centers.

Space DC announces that upcoming Jakarta hyperscale data center campus will be LEED Platinum facility (1)

The carbon footprint of a data center depends largely on the CO2 emissions generated while production of the electricity required for the functioning of servers & other hardware components, with the air conditioning & ventilation requirements contributing roughly 40% of its peak load consumption. Maintenance & operation of MEP utilities for data centers also has a significant chunk of resources utilization.

Major portion of this energy requirement is still achieved via burning of fossil fuels, however there is a continuous positive influx of renewable sources of energy such as solar & wind for powering these critical utilities. Corporate giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook are already cutting around 88% of their carbon emissions and have all set aside strict timelines to have carbon neutral data center infrastructural facilities.

Online content providers like Netflix are purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to achieve their Carbon Offsets. As per Green Building Certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), “the environmental benefits from renewable energy generation are certified and tracked through renewable energy certificates (RECs). A third party ensures that a specific amount of power was generated by a renewable source. By purchasing RECs, a project that is using nonrenewable energy can still stimulate demand for green power”.

However, with the mix of electricity generation, an integrative approach with enhancement measures are required from all domains including architectural, engineering & Information Technologists to build sustainable Data centers, subsequently scaling down the potential risk it causes to stakeholders & countries in tackling the climate change repercussions of it.

      

Energy management system for a data center is pivotal in monitoring & diagnosing critical parameters

Passive cooling solutions helps in maintaining optimum server temperature & humidity by greatly reducing dependence on energy intensive air conditioning solutions, which in turn significantly transforms into energy and cost reduction. Incorporation of such engineering practices along with utilization of excessive renewable energy resources have enabled Nordic counties like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark become undisputed leaders in Global Data center sphere.

Further incorporating proper building orientation, massing, and shading techniques, high performance envelope and thermal insulation are various architectural ways in which data centers shall be designed to achieve required natural ventilation & improved building performance.

The evolving computational innovation and sustainable coding could also play vital role in reducing the hardware & software loads of a data center. Google’s new carbon-intelligent computing platform which shifts the server computing to less carbon-intensive times of the day considering the maximum availability of wind & solar energy is one such great example. Leveraging the shift in server loads between various data centers could further accelerates the cause of making all modern data centers carbon negative (2).

Considering the rapid growth of digitalized services, more efficient proactive measures are required for designing and functioning of data centers. Stringent guidelines & frameworks regarding the same will further help to mitigate the environmental threat posed by increasing data demand, paving way to create a robust sustainable ecosystem for a data driven community.

  1. Rendering of planned Jakarta Data Center Campus by Space DC (earlier Polymer Connected)
  2. https://www.blog.google/inside-google/infrastructure/data-centers-work-harder-sun-shines-wind-blows/

 

 
 

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