Concepts of Sustainability for Data Centers

Clarissa GarciaArticles, Blog

concept of sustainability

Rise of the Sustainable Data Center – Concepts of Sustainability

Cloud computing and digital transformation feed the world’s rising need for processing capacity. Different concepts of sustainability are now top-of-mind concerns in data center development and operation. Global IP traffic rose tenfold between 2010 and 2018. The number of compute instances running on the world’s servers increased six times. Resulting in data center capacity shortage expanding to factor 25. This is according to Energy Innovation Policy & Technology. Some of the world’s most powerful data centers now use enough electricity to power 80,000 homes. This has brought concepts of sustainability for the data center to the forefront.
And the workload is only going to increase. To serve a growing number of artificial intelligence applications, a slew of GPU and CPU are being installed. Numerous edge data centers will emerge as smart gadgets outfitted with 5G wireless networks.
The proliferation of connected devices is boosting demand for both power and data centers that link to them. According to Vertiv, the transition to 5G is expected to increase total network energy consumption by 150% to 170% by 2026. In a 2017 estimate, the communications industry may consume 20% of worldwide power by 2025. Thus, producing 14% of global emissions by 2040, or almost the same amount as the United States does today.
This is taking place in the context of rising worldwide worries about the safety of water sources and the usage of fossil fuels. There is a trade-off between the two to some extent. The air-conditioning required to cool equipment consumes about 40% of the power consumed by data centers. The adoption of evaporative cooling technology lowers this amount. This is in exchange for higher water use, expenses, and processes required to maintain water sources clean. Achieving the greatest long-term solution necessitates a delicate balance of both elements.
concept of sustainability

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New Concepts of Sustainability

Concepts of sustainability are being embraced by managers and operators of the data centers. They have contributed several key technologies while lowering their own power consumption. Google’s data centers, for example, now accommodate seven times the capacity of five years ago without an increase in their use of electricity. According to the U.S. Data Center Energy Usage Report, data center energy consumption rose by 4% between 2010 and 2014. This is less than the 24% rise seen in the preceding five years. In the future, energy consumption is anticipated to rise at a slower pace.

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The use of server virtualization has decreased the number of servers required in data centers. Hyperscalers have also been pioneers in the usage of power purchase agreements. Renewable energy providers offer a cost-effective alternative to develop their own renewable infrastructure. And these concepts of sustainability support all energy initiatives. Google’s “carbon-intelligent” data center architecture adjusts workloads to maximize the usage of carbon-neutral power sources.
Despite the industry’s need for electricity, data centers have embraced renewable energy sources on a big scale. This is not due to apprehension on their side, but rather to the necessity to strike a balance between sustainability and resiliency.
The power that is both high-quality and dependable is required for data centers. IT equipment can be damaged by voltage fluctuations and dropouts within 30 milliseconds. Thus, resulting in costly disruptions. According to Statista, the average cost of corporate server downtime in 2019 was between $400,000 and $500,000, with 15% of businesses reporting expenses exceeding $5 million. Loss of revenue, fines for failing to meet service level agreements, and legal exposure are all possible risks for colocation data center operators.
Because renewable energy sources are weather reliant, they are most of the time, unpredictable. Fuel cells have potential, but they are currently costly and in their infancy. Solar and wind power can be beneficial as a backup power source. But problems like the expense of storing enough electricity to avoid outages and maintaining equipment, are too expensive for many operators. Many of the same advantages may be obtained through power purchase agreements but without the hefty upfront expenditures.
One of the reasons most data centers have uninterruptible power sources (UPS) is the necessity for a reliable power source. UPS not only guard against outages but eliminates power fluctuations from the grid. Unfortunately, most data center UPS are designed to be under-utilized. The units are most efficient when running at around 80% capacity, but data center operators run them at no more than 20% capacity. This is to assure availability in the event of a failure. This results in a significant percentage of battery squandered.
This idle capacity may be used to help stabilize the electrical grid, increase the use of renewable energy. Thus, provide financial benefits to data center owners and their suppliers of electricity. The unused UPS batteries could be used to make renewable energy sources realistic and enhance the energy grid’s health.

Most Promising Concepts of Sustainability

On the road to climate-neutral data centers, there are plenty of issues to overcome. Concepts of sustainability in IT and green data centers necessitate a paradigm shift and more development on a large scale. One or more of these issues might be solved using a variety of techniques and advancements like the following:

1. Cooling Systems and Technology

Next-generation data centers will need to run at higher power densities. Innovation of air-conditioning design and high-performance cooling technology is all the more important. After staff and maintenance expenses, energy supply is the second-largest cost element in a data center. Greater energy efficiency, lower CO2 emissions, and improved sustainability are the economic interests of operators.

Liquid cooling will continue to be the preferred method in the future, despite the fact that it is far from perfect. The increasing concentration of racks and servers within data centers will rise to maximize the space capacity. Air cooling alone will probably not going be enough. This method reduces the need for fans, and the compact design of contemporary cooling equipment allows for more effective use of available space.

Indirect free-air cooling is an energy-efficient way of boosting cooling efficiency. However, it is insufficient over time. It lowers energy consumption and achieves a PUE of up to 1.15. But, the data center still consumes 15% more energy than the IT infrastructure on its own.

This isn’t enough to ensure climate neutrality. “PUE” as a metric isn’t a trustworthy indicator of energy efficiency. To achieve considerable progress, we need a mix of technological innovation, best practices, well-studied legislation in the area of cooling technology.

2. New Configurations in DCIM

New Configurations in DCIM

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With the introduction of new concepts of sustainability, data centers need to be more flexible and scalable. To achieve this, operators must adopt efficient DCIM that will regulate the data center’s output. The math is straightforward: the more precise and flexible the systems respond, the more efficient a data center can run.

Still, the focus is on speeding data center consolidation, pooling data center locations, and further condensing hardware to decrease the demand for physical space and, as a result, lower the amount of energy required. In the following areas, there is still a lot of space for improvement:

  • Server utilization
  • Energy-efficient algorithms
  • Multiple storages of data
  • Relocation of computing load to where renewable energy is currently cheap
The hardware could also be significantly optimized in terms of:
  • Extending the service life of devices
  • Increasing the recycling rate of hardware
  • Developing material alternatives to toxic substances and rare earth

3. Use of Residual and Waste Heat

Data centers are more than energy hogs. A significant part of the electrical energy supplied converts into thermal energy. Data centers are becoming heat producers as a result of the waste energy they create. With the high demands in major cities, the heat generated may be best used to heat office and residential buildings, greenhouses, or provide hot water.
However, there is a problem: data center waste heat is insufficient for heating. More research and technical innovations are needed in this potential sector. Meanwhile, a demonstration showed how data center waste heat can be utilized to warm up fuel cells. Which could then provide heat to entire city districts. The European Commission’s document “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future” advocates for energy reuse particularly.

4. Energy Production

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The demand for renewable energy sources is also stated in the European Commission’s report. Relying on energy generation to be climate-neutral by the deadline is naïve and insufficient. However, attaining climate-neutral data center operation requires sustainable energy recovery.

Hydropower is a proven energy source for data centers in Scandinavia. IONOS, a German operator, transitioned to hydropower and uses electricity from hydropower facilities.

At the same time, the performance capacity of solar and wind energy is increasing. Solar energy is credited to have the potential to cover the requirements of a green data center using local energy production. The potential of other alternatives is still difficult to determine. However, they are already in motion to be an alternative to diesel generators used for emergency power supply.

Monitoring For A Sustainable Data Center

Collecting real-time, automatic, and granular data is the best method to gain a better understanding of your data center. This is one of the most fundamental ideas in sustainability; yet, the definition of “real-time” differs from company to company. When it comes to managing a data center’s uptime, the difference between seconds and minutes is significant.
Data-driven solutions are the most effective way to cut down on power use and expenditures. The first step to baseline measurements, according to the panel, is accurate and timely data. This will be used to come up with ways for decreasing the PUE. Operators can use this method to identify issues such as:
  • Reducing Cooling Power Consumption
  • Eliminating Overcooling
  • Making Changes to Airflow to Address Hot-Spots
  • Manage Aisle Temperatures
  • Improve Heat Containment in High-Density Racks.

Real-time monitoring of data center conditions has several advantages that cannot be overstated. Improving energy efficiency and sustainability is a long-term endeavor. Operators must constantly have the most up-to-date data in order to make informed decisions and, ultimately, enhance their facilities. Furthermore, real-time data from these same monitoring technologies communicate crucial information about an issue within the data center at its inception, giving employees critical time to identify a solution before downtime occurs. Data centers that take this strategy may decrease operational expenses while also becoming stronger members of their ecosystems, which helps us all.

AKCP Monitoring Solutions

AKCP Environment Monitoring

AKCP Environment Monitoring

AKCP created a system to be used in monitoring and creating data using dashboards to aid in making choices and tracking sustainability progress. This comprises user interface software and a variety of smart sensors. This monitoring system may be used to track our carbon footprint as well. After all, as the saying goes, if you don’t measure it, you won’t be able to manage it.

Environmental Monitoring

Monitor all your temperature, humidityairflowwater leak, and other environmental sensors. Configure rack maps to show the thermal properties of your computer cabinet, check the temperature at the top, middle, bottom, front, and rear, as well as temperature differentials.

Power Monitoring

Monitor single-phase, three-phase, generators, and UPS battery backup power. AKCPro Server performs live Power Usage effectiveness (PUE) calculations so you have a complete overview of your power train and how adjustments in your data center directly impact your PUE.

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Clarissa GarciaConcepts of Sustainability for Data Centers