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The Future Of Data Centers Is Green

The continued growth of the global data center market is being driven by ongoing demand for cloud and Internet services. While growth and expansion are always a good thing from a business perspective, in a data center context, it equates to increasing power output to remain operational, and the type of power and way in which it’s used can have adverse effects on the environment.

Swedish researcher Anders Andrae predicts that by 2025, data centers will amount to ICT’s largest share of global electricity production at 33 percent, followed by smartphones (15 percent) networks (10 percent) and TV (9 percent). In terms of wider global usage, Andrae also expects data centers to use 20 percent of the world’s energy, placing their carbon footprint at 5.5 percent of the global value, if faster adoption of more efficient energy sources does not take place.

The fact that so many businesses are more environmentally aware and conscious of their carbon footprints means that contemplating what sustainable data centers can offer is becoming an important part of the criteria for choosing a data center provider or managed service.

Why green tech is important in data centers

The storage needs for new data do not necessarily signify a direct relationship in hardware requirements. The effects of new storage needs are inclined to increase later, as modern retention guidelines usually call for reliable, easily accessible backups. All of this new data needs to be secured, cooled, and transmitted effectively. Upgrading data centers can also mean expanding physical space for new racks and other equipment – all of which must be lit, cooled, and secured.

It therefore stands to reason that operating a server network, along with fans, consoles, monitors, lights, and cooling systems 24/7 requires large amounts of energy. And since data centers require continuous uptime, many systems run around the clock, regardless of whether they’re being used or not.

Fortunately, increasing efforts to decrease power consumption, carbon emissions, and sustain operational efficiency are responsible for the adoption of increasingly energy-efficient infrastructure in the global market.

Cutting the environmental impact of data centers

Reducing energy consumption is good for the environment and benefits the data center operator financially. Energy costs are forever on the rise, which is why energy-intensive industries are always looking for new ways to reduce their overhead. Data center owners are no different, with many striving to lower costs in a variety of ways and lessen environmental impact.

New equipment

The irony with older equipment is that it may not have been energy-wise to start with, and as it starts to degrade over time, the likelihood of it needing more energy to stay operational is high. Constant technological advancements mean that new equipment is available to use, which is not only more capable, but also more energy efficient.


Virtualization enables IT teams to control equipment by means of a virtual machine operated at another location. The result is a reduced need for facilities to accommodate employees permanently on site, so things like operating temperature and adequate lighting don’t need upkeep, and data centers are able to function at higher temperatures with a reduced energy footprint. Operators of large data centers that have seen substantial reductions in energy consumption from operating a higher-temperature data center include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, and Oracle.

Virtualization also enables multiple pieces of software to run on the same server. This can often mean combing up to a dozen servers into one. This, again, will lower costs for the user storing their information at that facility.

Turning Off Unused or Dead Servers

When a business partners with a data center or a managed service provider that uses a data center to support its service offering, it provides a specified amount of storage that the business will need. The facility will then allocate adequate space. Typically, a data center will allocate additional space in anticipation of expansion, which is often done automatically, not on the request of the customer. Although this provides room for customer growth, it also creates dead server space until that expansion occurs.

Two years ago, California-based consultant and leading international expert on IT, Jonathan Koomey, surveyed more than 16,000 servers tucked into closets and basements and found that approximately a quarter were ‘comatose,’ drawing power without doing any useful work. Green data centers turn off these dead servers, which lowers energy consumption, and therefore costs, which is reflected in lower customer fees.

Using power on demand

A key reason why data centers are so costly is that they have expenditures for power use estimates. Environmentally-conscious data centers eliminate this excess spending by using power on demand, which they do through continuous monitoring and analysis so that they only use the amount of power needed. Taking this a step further, specialized tools are available that can enable green data centers to reclaim unused power and distribute it elsewhere in the facility.

‘Greening up’ requires an industry effort

The data center industry has shown that it cares about energy efficiency, and there is a strong industry focus on improving energy use. Extremely aware of the cost and availability of power, data centers have some of the most advanced tools of any sector for improving energy efficiency. These include The Green Grid, and the European Code of Conduct for data centers, the work of the Uptime Institute, and a range of industry standards and certifications for energy efficient data center operations.

Concerted efforts like these to deliver services responsibly and sustainably will ultimately be to the advantage of not just the data center market, but its customers and possibly, most importantly, the environment.―DCD

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