What It Means to Be a Sustainable Data Center

Aug. 1, 2016
In this week’s Voices of the Industry, Adil Attlassy, Chief Development Officer, IO, discusses what it means to be a sustainable data center.

In this week’s Voices of the Industry, Adil Attlassy, Chief Development Officer, IO, discusses what it means to be a sustainable data center.

Pursuing sustainable data center strategies sometimes involves a leap of faith. These initiatives can struggle to gain momentum because, like all revolutionary change, a commitment to sustainability involves short-term sacrifice for the sake of long-term benefits. However, if sustainability is an important tenet of your business then your data center provider must operate efficiently and diligently seek new ways to reduce overall environmental impact.

Adil Attlassy, Chief Development Officer, IO

Think of all the things we do online. We check email and host meetings. We access data and conduct research. We service customers, store financial records, and move money. Our pay stubs are PDFs and our health care comes through portals. And as a result of this always-on, digital lifestyle, data centers have become one of the largest and fastest growing consumers of energy in the world.

In order to keep pace with the expanding digital world, your data center provider must operate with the mindset that 100 percent renewably powered, zero waste data centers are achievable. To jump start your sustainable data center strategy, ask your data center provider about the platform and other practices it employs to make sure resources are utilized efficiently to deliver colocation and cloud services.

Start With Your Provider’s Platform

A viable sustainability strategy starts with the data center’s platform. How it is designed, constructed and operated. Some data centers utilize modular technology as opposed to raised floor as this approach can be more efficient in design and operation. Some look for ways to minimize CO2 emissions at their site and throughout their business while others look to get energy from renewable sources. However, the bottom-line is a sustainable data center provider must operate efficiently as a majority of its costs are on energy. This energy requires carbon emissions at the power plant and is therefore the source of the largest environmental impact for those in our industry. Improving energy efficiency reduces one of the largest costs and one of the largest sources of emissions simultaneously. For your data center provider, that means using less – less energy and less water.

Reduce Data Center Waste

It takes a large number of components to run a data center, from cables and sensors to IT hardware and cooling units that need to be refreshed regularly. And in order to address the total sustainability of data centers, it’s important to minimize the amount of toxic-laden electronics that end up in landfills. Wrapping our arms around this issue requires a joint effort by data center providers and their customers. It requires an understanding of the daily inflow of materials and outbound flow of goods and services compared with the subsequent material that is reclaimed, repurposed, recycled or disposed of as waste. A sustainable data center also looks to eliminate the use of these hazardous, scarce or difficult to create materials altogether.

Leverage Your Provider’s Footprint

When selecting a data center provider, inquire about their multi-site footprint and ability to enable distributed network availability and dynamic load placement. Working to identify workloads that can be transferred from peak demand periods to off-peak hours results in lower costs for data center users, the data center, and utilities. Additionally, your provider should assess a variety of sustainability-focused metrics in the data center, such as energy mix, water scarcity and availability of public transit. This will ensure that you are able to operate sustainably no matter where you use data center services. Whenever possible and sensible within the context of business requirements, your data center provider should pursue regional environmental certification standards.

Gain Increased Performance Visibility Through Software

Utilizing data center operating system software to track key metrics associated with asset, capacity, and workflow management can optimize the entire performance of your data center. Because the tools enable visibility into and control of energy consumption and capacity, organizations are able to achieve greater efficiency and thus energy cost savings. Going a step further, all this data being collected by software tools can be used to improve engineering and operational processes, extend system longevity, enhance security, lower data center energy and maintenance costs, and guide best practices for availability and resiliency. By making the data available to you through software, a data center provider can help your organization identify areas to improve system efficiencies and open the doors for continuous improvement.

Continuous Innovation Is A Priority

Data center providers with a vested interest in sustainability will always be looking to reduce, reuse and recycle everything from energy to materials. Efficiency is a key component in their current and future designs of power distribution, energy recovery, IT and environmental networks. Sustainable data center providers will also require their vendor partners, employees, and customers to operate with the same standards and performance. They should partner with like-minded companies and customers to co-develop sustainable solutions and meet mutual goals. Your data center provider should share its innovation and progress, and always strive to keep up-to-date on the latest technologies, as they become available in the future.

Overall, the data center industry uses large and increasing amount of land, energy, water, and raw materials, and is creating a growing amount of waste in the process. If creating a sustainable data center strategy is fundamental to your business principles, ask your data center provider about their environmentally friendly practices.

Submitted by Adil Attlassy,  Chief Development Officer, IO. Adil serves as Chief Development Officer for IO. In this capacity, he is directly responsible for global site selection and development and oversees the company’s data center procurement and supply chain engagement. He has spent 18 years in the telecommunications and data center industry, and has had responsibility for delivering solutions for enterprise customers globally.

About the Author

Voices of the Industry

Our Voice of the Industry feature showcases guest articles on thought leadership from sponsors of Data Center Frontier. For more information, see our Voices of the Industry description and guidelines.

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