Kevin Kent is a global expert in climate change and data centres – and believes every data centre manager has a role to play in tackling the climate crisis
From raging bushfires to record temperatures and melting ice caps, the impacts of climate change are starting to feel very real and present. And data centres make a significant contribution to climate change – they are currently responsible for around 2 percent of all global carbon emissions, a figure set to keep on rising as our addiction to streaming and always-on connectivity continues apace.
“Data centres are now consuming power at an alarming rate, and it is estimated that global data centres could account for nearly 25 percent of available electricity by 2025” says Kevin Kent, who divides his time between managing Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre’s data centre and leading the consultancy Critical Facilities Efficiency Solutions, which he founded in 2018. Kent, who became fascinated by the architecture of data centres early in his career regularly speaks about the industry’s climate responsibilities at global summits, and he will be presenting at Data Centre World London in March.
Kent’s message is clear and simple: “Everything you do to reduce matters, everything you do counts!” So, where should data centre managers begin?
Scale of the problem
The causes and effects of climate change are now widely known. However, for both consumers and tech industry workers, the exact role of servers in that equation can be unclear. Kent tries to put the industry’s energy usage into perspective: “for data centres in the US alone it would take approximately 34 massive coal fired power plants” to generate the energy required every single day.
In an ideal world, the solution to the problem is simple: “the obvious answer is to use power generated from carbon free sources such as wind, solar, and hydro.” However, in many parts of the world this simply isn’t possible at present. Renewables only make up a quarter of all energy produced, of which the majority comes from hydroelectric dams. If your data centre isn’t located near a dam or other renewable energy source, this might not yet be an option.
When switching to renewable energy sources isn’t possible, Kent says there is still a lot that data centre owners can do, especially when it comes to the way they manage their estates. This involves “looking into how efficiency is measured in data centres as well as understanding and evaluating the data. One of my favourite sayings is ‘You cannot manage what you do not measure.’”