Is a Sustainable Data Center Out of the Question? Not Quite.
An exploration on the attainability of sustainable data and a green future.
There’s no greater reminder of IT’s impact on global environments than the widely referenced fact that data centers were responsible for 1% of 2018’s worldwide electricity consumption. It’s undeniable — these facilities are energy hogs. Still, the more important fact remains that this reality isn’t immutable. The tides of digital energy usage are turning. Now, the question becomes: How can we make this change, and along with it the ultimate goal of truly green data centers, realistic and achievable for the wider industry?
Cooling systems — and servers within the data centers themselves — demand huge amounts of power. With every passing day, businesses, communities, healthcare institutions, governments and beyond rely more on applications and connectivity, driving a more acute reliance on IT infrastructure. The takeaway is one we’ve all heard repeated time and time again: Sustainability is a challenge that is only becoming more pressing. Of course, changing the trajectory of users’ data dependence isn’t an option, which means eco-consciousness for the data center must come from within.
Finding solutions that stem this enormous draw on resources takes innovation and iteration, both of which are already in progress on a massive scale. However, finding success in sustainability also takes a bit of a shift in perspective. When data demands are so astronomical, the goal — at least for now — is not a perfectly green facility. To aim for such strict and aggressive goals can paralyze progress for data center providers and users that are waiting for the ideal solution. Instead, the goal should be a facility that makes changes wherever and whenever it can, adapting as new environmentally-friendly innovations are brought to market. In turn, those seeking out data center services should continue to focus on sustainability as a major facet of site selection.
As new solutions are integrated, however, measuring progress on the energy consumption scale is vital for understanding what impacts we are making and where improvements can be made. In approaching the challenge this way, we see the birth of the negawatt — a unit that measures energy saved and, subsequently, advancement achieved.
To get to that carbon-neutral, truly green data center landscape, collaborative innovation must become a best practice. At Kohler Power, this can take the form of products that are compliant with EPA Tier 4 emissions standards, as well as continually making strides toward new, disruptively green solutions. It also means continuing to drive discussion at the intersection of data and environmental consciousness. No matter how the industry goes green, however, the truth is that data centers can be more than a necessary evil — and the industry is well on its way.
To learn more about the evolution of data center sustainability, renewable energy usage and more, read Data Center Frontier’s article “The Power of the Negawatt: Efficiency Improves Data Centers’ Energy Impact” here.