How Power and Cooling Adjustments Can Drive Sustainable DataCentres

Michael Skurla, Chief Product Officer, Radix IoT, talks about Sustainability in Data Centers in this latest article for DataCentre Solutions.

Data centers consumed two percent of global electricity usage in 2022– 460 terawatt-hours. Computing power and cooling were the two most energy-intensive processes. The infrastructure including servers, water, electricity, cooling systems–and other required systems to make these buildings productive in the U.S. generated 2% of greenhouse gas emissions as of 2023.

Data centers are the backbone of the global information infrastructure of our ever-increasing data processing and storage demands worldwide. Scrutiny of their soaring power and water usage has led to most data center operators adopting carbon footprint-reducing initiatives as part of their larger Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In embracing sustainable data center operations practices to help reduce the environmental impact, operators have also safeguarded against potential legal and reputational repercussions to ensure they adhere to evolving and strict local and global environmental regulations. To gain stakeholder loyalty, sustainable data center practices, as in all industry sectors, have become a global moral, and evolving regulatory issue.

Technologies For Sustainable Data Centers

Though location plays a large factor in utility resources and associated costs; using technologies that boost sustainability has become front and center. Data center owners and operators first and foremost need monitoring and facilities analytics to control energy management as energy costs continue to peak. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial facilities in the U.S. account for 18% of total U.S. energy consumption–with an annual energy expenditure of $190 billion and CO2 emissions of nearly 826 million metric tons.

Any level of energy spending reduction in a data center can trigger significant cost savings. Keeping in mind that the average data center cooling system consumes nearly 40% of the total power, chilled water plants continue to be data centers’ largest energy hogs.

Integrating DCIM Platform technologies can help augment sustainable operations while providing data center operators with real-time access to:

  • Current and historical reporting and monitoring to foster predictive maintenance

  • Trend quantification of usage metrics, to foster preventative maintenance

  • Real-time operational event management to foster uptime and prompt maintenance

Data centers have never been short on operational data, but most rely heavily on manual investigation of various building automation technologies to make critical choices. This includes everything from cooling towers to chillers, pumps, and basic sensing devices. A modern DCIM allows these various operational data sources to become one, wholistic solution allowing for a single point of truth for real-time monitoring and management without the effort of manually sifting through data from different systems. 

Best of all operators can make fact-based, data-driven business decisions and alterations to their portfolio of data centers to introduce sustainability measures over time and see the outcomes. Even minor data-driven tweaks have resulted in a 20 percent energy cost savings–the larger the data center, the higher the savings gained.

Modern DCIM platforms also allow for “unmanned” smaller, edge facilities in far-off and hard- to-reach areas to be remotely automated, triaged, and managed; lowering the need for expensive truck-rolls to investigate problems or even just check on locations. 

Maintaining Sustainable Datacenter Operations

Efficient energy management is the cornerstone of sustainable data centers. Leveraging DCIM IoT platforms yields cost savings, enhances business efficiency, and aids in fulfilling corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives.

Embracing evolving data center technologies necessitates the integration of energy-efficient hardware and advanced cooling systems, but it is not about simply replacing systems. Optimization is key, and vastly more economical in the short term than replacement equipment, yet without a DCIM that can adapt to inevitable differences in build designs and generations of equipment – it is very difficult to benchmark results. Hence, an effective, as well as flexible (and ideally manufacturer-agnostic) DCIM should be the first step in any ESG program. 

Beyond technology initiatives like The Green Grid initiative foster industry collaboration and standardization. USGBC also offers LEED for Data Centers which is a specialized rating system tailored to the requirements of high-density computing infrastructure, notably server racks utilized for data storage and processing. This unique sustainability benchmark and certification considers the substantial cooling demand of the data center market aiming to enhance overall efficiency and sustainability while creating a focus on Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and transitioning to renewable energy sources to further minimize environmental footprints.

Regardless of whether a structured program works for your business, or more ad-hoc solutions are a better investment; two things are very clear: #1 Data is key to any sustainability program to allow for rational investment that can be proven. #2 Regardless of where you are in the world, if you are in the data center business, sustainability is coming for you, and you can start to invest now or scramble later when inevitability the rules will change. 

At Radix IoT, we’re all about empowering our customers with the visibility and data insights needed to more effectively manage operations. Our Mango IoT platform–leveraged by telecom, energy, datacenters and facilities’ operations worldwide– seamlessly connects with pre-existing assets and systems, enabling our customers to more proactively manage their operations and better protect their bottom line. We invite you to learn more request a demo today!

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