6 Practical Tips for Data Centre Sustainability
Fri 12 Nov 2021
Why is data centre sustainability such a hot topic? Because climate change is, quite literally, a ‘hot topic – and making environmentally-sound business choices is critical to help minimize the effects of climate change.
And while the primary focus of data centre sustainability is protecting the environment, there are some related benefits to the business that cannot be ignored. The first is that customers are focused on making green choices, to support their own environmental goals. The more environmentally-sound your data centre, the more attractive your business will be in comparison to the competition.
Additionally, sustainability measures are frequently more economically-sound, reducing operating expenses and channelling resources more effectively. According to Bruno Berti, Vice President of Product Management at NTT noted, “Luckily, sustainability often goes hand-in-hand with efficiency and efficiency with cost savings.”
Whatever the motivation, now is the time for data centres to put ideas about lessening environmental impact and operating sustainably into practice. Some practical tips to implement sustainability at the data centre include:
Eliminate unused space on virtual servers by combining processes and streamlining workloads. Lightly used servers can be consolidated, allowing you to eliminate duplication of data and duplication of process, and assess existing space with an eye to virtualize additional workloads.
Replace old or outdated equipment with more efficient technology. With newer hardware, data centres can run more processes simultaneously while pulling less power. Modern technology, including servers, have efficiency settings that reduce power consumption during periods of low utilization. Ensuring that these settings are activated and optimized can help to make your current equipment as energy-efficient as possible, thereby reducing the overall environmental impact.
Keep it cool
Cooling systems are among the most critical to data centre operations, and traditional cooling systems use a larger amount of energy than other systems. In a conventional data centre, air conditioning accounts for 40% of the total power usage. Improving the operation of your existing cooling system or exploring new options, such as in-rack or in-row cooling. In a high-density server rack, in-rack or in-row cooling can use 3x less energy than conventional cooling system.
An inefficient power distribution unit, or PDU, is an often-overlooked opportunity to improve overall power usage. A high-efficiency PDU or even a ‘smart’, reactive PDU that monitors power usage can be 2-3% more efficient than conventional power distribution units.
Go with the (air) flow
Changing the layout of the data centre can have a significant effect on operations, costs, and power usage. A hot/cold server row setup reduces the mixing of hot air (exhaust) with the air that is being cooled. This can be combined with air flow containment, where plexiglass or curtains further separate hot and cold air – so that it is easier to keep the cold rows chilled. The Department of Energy estimates that combining hot/cold row design and air containment systems can reduce fan energy use from 20-25%.
Where power comes from can have a direct and significant effect on data centre sustainability. Green and renewable energy is becoming more available across the globe, improving a data centre’s opportunity to partner with local providers to purchase power from renewable sources. Additionally, some data centres have built their own solar, wind, and water power-generation facilities, located on or near data centre campuses, to power their data services. Others have focused on reducing impact on the local power grid, entering into agreements to recycle data centre waste heat to provide heat to the local population.
Building a sustainable data centre environment is a lofty goal, with many different paths to follow. However, taking a few practical steps today and investing in a sustainable future offers benefits to the environment, the customer, and the data centre itself. Lower environmental impact, including lower power usage, can have a ripple effect, extending benefits outside of the data centre on a wider scale.