Ah, Earth Day. It’s not only a time to reflect on the majesty of the natural world, but also a time to consider how we’re treating it. The Earth Day Network, which organizes the global movement, wants us to mobilize to address climate change and protect the Earth for future generations. Having a designated day for citizens to galvanize around that mission is critical to finding our way to sustainable living. Unfortunately, there are already many cases of irreversible damage incurred by our planet. NASA reports that sea levels have risen about 17 centimeters in the last century; acidity of our oceans increased by 30% since the industrial revolution; and Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005. The ramifications are dire and we can already see the negative results through the massive increase of extreme weather events that destroy habitats, households, and businesses.
Almost every personal and professional purchase we make inflicts some sort of negative externality on the natural environment. Now with modern conveniences, it’s impossible to eliminate our environmental footprint completely, but we ought to make decisions that mitigate these ramifications as best we can. ClickClean, Greenpeace’s widely publicized annual data center sustainability report card states that the IT sector in 2017 is estimated to consume approximately 7% of global electricity and 21% of that is attributed to data centers. No one’s saying we should scale back the Internet – that train has left the station and the benefits are staggering. But, going about the aggressive expansion of the digital world in a conscientious manner is essential to mitigating the considerable environmental impact caused by a sector that’s already a major contributor of greenhouse gases by way of its colossal energy requirements.
When searching for a data center partner, companies looking to reduce the environmental impact of their IT operations ought to identify facilities that leverage utility power generated by a healthy mix of renewal energy sources; i.e. not too reliant on coal or petroleum. Next, providers should be assessed on the sophistication of the critical infrastructure systems within the considered data centers. Efficiency gains can most easily be realized by the cooling system in place. Is outside air used to cool the IT equipment? Is hot/cold aisle containment implemented? Are chillers optimized to sensitively scale cooling in conjunction with the IT load? Is cold air directed intelligently to ensure maximum interaction with servers? Finally, even if a data center features the most efficient infrastructure on the market, it’s only as good as the people operating it. Having a team that continually optimizes operations to improve power usage effectiveness (PUE) and other key operational indicators is perhaps most important.
In the midst of climate change, finding an energy efficient data center should not be an environmentally-aware organization’s sole concern. Selecting a site that is protected from a more volatile climate is also crucial. The EPA tracked 32 weather events in the United States that caused at least $1 billion in damages between 1980 and 2012. It’s unclear if data center outages were included in the Agency’s summation, but those costs are nothing to sneeze at. Last year, Data Center Frontier published a report that estimates the average data center outage costs over $740,000 dollars and will only grow as companies rely more on digital applications. This is where site selection comes into play – companies need to pinpoint locations that not only meet their latency requirements, but also provide an environmentally and geologically stable climate.
DataSite not only has facilities in exceptionally safe environments, but also strives to minimize its carbon footprint. The utility power we leverage takes advantage of hydroelectric, wind, and solar sources. We employ the latest cooling strategies to minimize our energy usage including free-air cooling, high-efficiency chillers with variable frequency drives, thermal insulation, chilled water to the rack, plenum and chimney returns, and hot/cold aisle containment. Our seasoned operations team is always seizing efficiency gains, leveraging infrared imaging to both diagnose and document the reduction of bypass airflow in all DataSite facilities. Our customers, in addition to the environment, benefit from our penchant for sustainability. Since PUE is factored into our metered power program, all efficiency gains are passed down. And we’re always looking to drive down our PUE!
As a provider of data center services, we are going to work even harder of Earth Day to reduce our environmental footprint through infrastructural improvements and even more diligent operational procedures. We know the Internet is only going to grow. As a supplier of its most foundational infrastructure, we promise to do our best to minimize the environmental cost. In return, we ask users to make intelligent choices.