Written by Ian Jeffs, General Manager at Lenovo Infrastructure Group
Improvements need to be made to ensure the way that data is generated, stored and processed is better for the environment. Every company has an obligation to make positive environmental changes for both its employees and the wider society. The government and consumers are putting huge pressure on businesses to become greener and, as 65% of employees are more likely to work for a company with robust environmental policies, this cannot be ignored. But, it isn’t always straightforward. Enterprise decision makers need to balance the growing demand for IT with rising expectations around environmentally responsible operations.
Here are five ways organisations can improve the sustainability of data centres and make them greener:
Set aggressive targets
Having something to work towards is important in any business and therefore setting clear and achievable goals is essential. Holding yourself to ambitious standards and making a public commitment helps to create accountability which will make a business more likely to succeed.
Achieving these goals can be difficult. But committing to wider industry-recognised sustainability initiatives can make things easier. One example is the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). This is the first ever science-based net zero standard for emissions reduction. It was created to combat the current inconsistencies that surround net zero targets, helping to enable consistent measurement and evaluation of a company’s emissions reduction.
Measurement helps to make businesses accountable. Data centre operations can often dominate all IT energy consumption, so it is vital for today’s enterprises to have a clear measurement process. Everything from water usage, electric consumption and wasted energy can be monitored, which offers valuable insight into where savings can be made. It can also be a useful tool to feed back results to business stakeholders as evidence of how targets are being met.
Make the most of circular economies
In IT management, the circular economy has increasingly become more important. The idea is to reduce the use of materials and energy in manufacturing products and then to reuse and recycle as much as possible. This not only uses less power but also ensures that fewer materials are wasted – both having an enormous impact on sustainability.
For the data centre, there is immense potential to capitalise on circular economies. With many thousands of servers and other pieces of hardware coming to their ‘end of life’ each year, much of this is thrown out and replaced. It is vital that IT managers change their mindset and reduce the risk of environmentally damaging waste. To do this, the industry must set a high bar when it comes to recycling, reusing, or repairing as much equipment as possible, to stop it from ending up in landfill.
Lenovo practices a ‘Design-Use-Return’ model to cover everything from products and packaging, manufacturing and operations and product take-back and value recovery. This includes services such as Lenovo Asset Recovery Services (ARS), which ensures responsible asset recovery and data disposal.
Any technology is reused where possible and any equipment that cannot be repaired or resold in secondary markets is considered for parts and components. Then when new products are manufactured, the raw materials from earlier equipment is used, bringing the economy to a full circle, and creating a more sustainable supply chain.
Future proof supply chains
Supply chain management is essential within data centres. Managing this robustly helps to replenish inventories, which is important from a business continuity perspective. It can also help reduce the risk of wasted energy and ensure energy efficient logistics. For example, by using trains in place of planes to transport goods and reducing travel distances as much as possible through distributing production to more local facilities, companies can lower fuel consumption. Thus, making the supply chain greener.
Around 1% of global electricity is currently used to power data centres and data is projected to grow to 463 exabytes every day by 2025 – meaning electricity consumption will multiply rapidly.
The impact of data centres goes far beyond drawing a vast amount of electricity. Data management also has an impact on other key resources. According to a US Government report, a data centre will need on average around 1.8 litres of water for every kWh consumed, mostly for air conditioning purposes. Usage will undoubtedly increase in line with data increases so companies must start adopting processes that reduce water consumption to ensure they are being as sustainable as possible. With energy prices soaring in 2022, reducing consumption and finder greener sources of power will also help companies to reduce costs.
The data centre of the future
Sustainability has been an increasingly important topic, not just for data centres but also across all parts of our lives. Pressure from governments, consumers, and climate change activists has amplified the need for businesses to act. There is a huge opportunity within data centres to make a difference and sustainability should be at the heart of IT strategies. This will help businesses to reach greener targets, and it will have a wider impact on society, creating a more sustainable future for all.