Environmental Impact of Data Centers

Green Building Data CenterData centers perform an invaluable job but that comes at a cost.  Data centers use a significant amount of energy and, while many are making efforts to be more energy efficient, the fact of the matter is that there are still many data centers that consume a dramatic amount of energy each year.  This of course is not only costly but not friendly for the environment.  The digital world has some very real and tangible energy side effects.  While it may not all be felt immediately, there is an environmental impact occurring as a result of data centers.  Time discussed just how much energy is being used by data centers and what to expect going forward, ” IT-related services now account for 2% of all global carbon emissions, according to a new Greenpeace report. That’s roughly the same as the aviation sector, meaning all those Netflix movies the world is streaming and the Instagram photos they’re posting are the energy equivalent of a fleet of 747s rumbling for takeoff. Unless something is done to green the cloud, we can expect those emissions to grow rapidly—the number of people online is expected to grow by 60% over the next five years, pushed in part by the efforts of companies like Facebook to expand Internet access by any means necessary. The amount of data we’ll be using will almost certainly increase too. Analysts project that data use will triple between 2012 and 2017 to an astounding 121 exabytes, or about 121 billion gigabytes. ‘If you aggregated the electricity use by data centers and the networks that connect to our devices, it would rank sixth among all countries,” says Gary Cook, Greenpeace’s international IT analyst and the lead author on its report. “It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s significant, and it will grow.'”

The fact of the matter is that data centers consume energy, a lot of energy, and that will not change.  But there are ways to reduce energy consumption and find more clean ways to use energy that leave less of an environmental footprint.  Most data centers use a lot of energy but they also waste a lot of energy and that is simply unacceptable.  Energy efficiency must be made a priority in a data center and a plan of action must be immediately implemented on a full scale.  Consolidation must take place, fewer servers means less space and less to cool.  But, with a high density rack, cooling can be focused so that cooling efforts are not wasted.  Additionally, containment such as hot aisles and cold aisles is one way to help improve energy usage.  Another and more green option in terms of cooling is to house your data center in a cooler climate that can take advantage of natural cooling elements and reduce cooling needs within a data center.  Additionally, as more and more moves to the cloud, physical infrastructure can be reduced in data centers which helps reduce cooling needs.  Data centers need to examine their energy usage and look for ways to not only reduce but for green options that are more environmentally friendly so that a sustainable data center future can be achieved.

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