Carolina Uribe, Energy and Environmental Manager at Telehouse explains why more and more organisations are opting for colocation to improve their sustainability
When stakeholders start asking questions about environmental, social and governance issues, corporate directors need to have the right answers. And for this reason, sustainability has become a top business issue.
Consumers, businesses, employees and investors are increasingly choosing only to work and do business with companies that support the transition to the low-carbon economy and address climate change, putting pressure on organisations to improve their carbon credentials and disclosures. According to Telehouse research, reducing environmental footprint is now a top five challenge for IT decision makers and will be the second biggest challenge by 2030.
As businesses embark on digital transformation journeys and worldwide data traffic continues to grow exponentially, so too will demand for power. Businesses will come under increasing scrutiny and be subject to ever stricter regulatory requirements to measure and report on CO2 emissions and plans to decarbonise. Meanwhile, the data centre industry is making great strides to implement and promote more sustainable practices. optimising space and implementing energy efficiency solutions. As a result, more and more enterprises are turning to colocation services as the answer to improving their carbon footprint.
How the data centre industry is responding
With external and internal pressures to improve their green credentials, the data centre industry is working hard to reduce its environmental impact. Traditionally, it has been subject to criticism about the amount of power it consumes, and the type of electricity sources used to power its operations. However, many providers are now developing their own internal environmental and energy efficiency strategies and policies to drive improvements.
Many data centres also demonstrate best practice in energy efficiency by adopting appropriate international ISO standards in Environment and Energy management (ISO 14001:2015 & ISO 50001:2018). They are also measuring and reporting energy use and efficiency through the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) or equivalents, contractually through the Climate Change Agreements. Some are doing this by obligation through regulatory schemes such as EU ETS (EU Emissions Trading Scheme which captures Scope 1 emissions), ESOS (Energy Saving Opportunities Scheme) and SECR (Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting).
The most sustainable data centres are now being built on commitments to innovative renewable strategies, including green power, water reclamation, zero water cooling systems, recycling and waste management, and more. They remove inactive or underused servers, and take advantage of newer, more efficient technologies. As a result, organisations are optimistic about the EU Commission’s vision of data centres becoming climate neutral by 2030 but recognise that there many challenges ahead to achieve this goal.
Choosing a green data centre provider
According to our research, the majority of IT decision-makers (86%) say sustainability is important in their IT infrastructure decision-making process and 62% are already monitoring the environmental footprint of their IT operations.
Furthermore, 82% say it is vital that their organisation uses data centres powered by renewable energy again. However, when it comes to choosing a data centre supplier, security (50%) and cost (41%) take priority, with sustainability (26%) on the backburner. This is likely because renewable energy is now a given and IT leaders are looking towards data centres to do more to demonstrate energy efficiency measures.
While great strides are being made in the industry to reduce energy consumption and improve sustainability, not all data centres are equal. So, when choosing a new data centre partner, IT leaders consider what climate actions their potential partners are taking as part of initial assessments.
As well as the data centre providers’ commitments to improving carbon efficiency, an often-overlooked area of sustainability is cloud connectivity. With many enterprises shifting to a hybrid and multi-cloud approach, choosing a data centre that offers that ability to connect to multiple cloud services easily and securely through a single, dedicated private connection is critical.
Innovations in power or artificial intelligence can also help drive improvements. Most data centre control systems already use AI to an extent to control and improve energy efficiency effectively. For example, an uninterruptable power supply can automatically change from one efficiency mode to another depending on the load of the system, however, machine learning can also be used to predict these events dependant on a number of other factors (e.g. external ambient temperatures) so the control systems can react accordingly and automatically.
Achieving a greener future
To meet growing corporate and social responsibility demands organisations increasingly need to make procurement decisions based on environmental sustainability. For years the IT industry and sustainability have been at odds. However, through technological advancements such as AI, the future is being changed and shaped for the better.
At the same time, those designing, building, and operating data centres will continue to incorporate technical considerations across a range of on-site power generation and energy storage solutions to practically address greenhouse emissions abatement, evolving regulatory requirements and end-user performance requirements, while also taking full advantage of renewable energy sources and sustainable technologies.
During the last decade a lot of data has been collected and analysed, providing more clarity on how a load grows within a building. This has allowed operators to build infrastructure that is designed and then tailored to those growth patterns. And with better cooling systems and UPS technology, heat and server recycling projects, any new data centre can be efficient from day one despite being built for a 30-year lifespan.
Over the coming years, we will see more joint commitments and climate change projects emerging as businesses try to address government commitments to Net Zero. The journey is only beginning, and it will be colocation providers who have the opportunity to put sustainability agenda at the forefront of their operations and strategies.