Waste management in data centres: Greening the ICT sector

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Data Center For the global economy to keep growing and for societies to continue developing there is an ever increasing demand for greater computing power. The solution to this growing demand, which also stems from an ever increasing use of the internet and the need to store vast volumes of data, has been to create data centres, some of which cover acres. In other words, the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector is becoming ever more important as its service is essential to further support economic progress. Thus hosting data centres has turned into a profitable and growing business and the niche has even spawned its own multinationals. With a higher demand for computing power, it follows there is a higher demand for electricity and as the production of electricity is one of the largest single producers of greenhouse gasses, CSR and sustainability professionals are targeting this field as it represents a significant area for improvement.

 

 

To get a feeling of how big the data center issue is and what drives the development, take a look at these figures:

  1. 500 000 000 use Facebook
  2. 1157 people start watching a YouTube clip per second
  3. 140 million tweets were created in February 2011 – Twitter celebrated its  6th Birthday in March 2012, announcing that 340 million tweets were created on a daily basis
  4. 509 147 data centres exist worldwide – covering an area the size of almost 6 000 football fields
  5. Servers purchased in 2011 were 45 times more powerful than those purchased in 2001
  6. 144.8 billion emails are sent per day – 27% are opened on a mobile device
  7. The number of devices connecting the world has grown from 100 million in the last century to more than 8 billion now
  8. Data storage capacity grew by a factor of 12 million between 1996 and 2012

Source: http://www.emersonnetworkpower.com/en-US/About/NewsRoom/Pages/2011DataCenterState.aspx
http://mashable.com/2012/11/27/email-stats-infographic/

 

According to Wikipedia, the ICT sector produces 2-3 % of global carbon emissions with Data Centres being responsible for 14% of the sector’s energy consumption.  In fact, worldwide CO2 emissions for IT are just as high as those for airlines but they have so far not attracted the same attention. Given the power consumed, the sensitivity of handling information and the need for solid legal frameworks, Switzerland is one of the European countries that has seen a very rapid growth in the hosting of data centres. To some extent this is a peace dividend as bunkers have been converted from a costly wartime set-up to now protecting hardware and data and even contributing to the economy through taxes.

Greening the industry
Historically, Switzerland has  been more environmentally conscious than most other countries and for that reason already has a relatively green power production sector. However, with the rapid growth in demand for data centres and related services, the pressure has also increased on the power grid. There is, therefore, a growing market for sustainability professionals that can help companies with large server rooms as well as actual data centres identify ways to become resource efficient at providing services such as Enterprise Energy Management and Remote Infrastructure Management in addition to general consulting on the topic.
One such company is BORN Green Technologies AG based in Zug, which  specialises in helping companies reduce their carbon footprint by finding ways to reduce the use of energy which is such a significant resource for them.  The main focus is on the effective use of inspiring technologies – technologies which will deliver operational excellence and thereby clear cost reductions while at the same time reducing resource consumption without any impact on productivity other than a positive one. It is this understanding of the inextricable link between technology, operational excellence and resource usage reduction that makes BORN Green Technologies unique and innovative and a front-runner in this new industry.

 

Born Tech 2

Implementing green and sustainable initiatives has become a top priority for socially and environmentally conscious enterprises that want to stay ahead of the regulatory curve. In most companies, one of the largest opportunities to make a significant environmental contribution as well as achieving cost savings is by identifying energy consumption and unproductive use of the resource, or ‘waste’, but also stretches to basically include everything that can be considered a resource.

Managing Director Christen Oesterbye adds that,” In 2012 we helped a number of companies reduce their energy bill by between 20% and 50% by implementing our Enterprise Energy Management service and followed up later by helping them with identifying opportunities in all areas of their IT infrastructure, even stretching into the entire operational model.”

With BORN Green Technologies’ focus on ‘waste’ or inefficiency, they seem to be implementing the aptly named “Sustainability Mechanism”, a term coined by Jonathan T. Scott with inspiration from the work done by Walther Sahell. The sustainability mechanism mixes waste elimination with resource-life extension and is in some ways the opposite to the consumerism culture of “buy-and-throw-away” created over the last 30 or 40 years. For example, today it is estimated that only about 10% of the energy created in power plants actually reaches the consumer – the rest is wasted. So far, the response has been to build more power plants. However, as this is clearly unsustainable, making power plants and delivery systems more efficient is essential. Improving on that would result in less waste and combined with people using consumer goods for longer periods of time, we would be able to reduce the production and release of CO2, effectively producing more energy and at the same time reducing the drain on resources. The path to achieving this win-win is clear; make yourself aware of the opportunities that innovative technologies can deliver right here, right now and thereby take two steps – save resources and hence costs, whilst contributing significantly towards the environment and sustainability.

 

Also on resource management: https://www.gbnews.ch/english/actualite-en-anglais/is-efficient-resource-management-good-business

 

photo credit: jspaw via photopin cc

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