Efficiency, Emissions Reduction, Renewables

Data centres’ key role in sustainability

With data centres comprising up to two per cent of global energy use, their operators must become resource stewards on the path to net zero, writes Joe Craparotta from Schneider Electric.

The global energy sector is a major contributor to emissions output, but its demand is currently outpacing supply of renewable energy. In Australia, demand is growing, with development exceeding 183,000 square metres in 2023. Data centre storage needs have led to $3.8 billion investment in Australia in the past 12 months. Globally, it is close to $13 billion investment.

It is incumbent on data centre owners and operators – whose industry is responsible for one to two per cent of global energy use – to focus on energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. With independent research commissioned by Schneider Electric revealing just 33 per cent of sustainability decision makers at colocation providers say their organisation has a strategic sustainability plan, it is clear the industry is only just starting its collective journey in this space.

However, there is a path forward. By creating an action plan based on a holistic measurement framework, and leaning on modern technology, businesses can accomplish sustainability goals and turn them into competitive advantages.

Paving the way for sustainability

Energy use is just one measure of sustainability. Data centre operators that wish to turn sustainability into a competitive advantage should consider energy use as one part of a holistic plan.

Understanding a data centre’s impact on the environment requires measuring greenhouse gas emissions; water use; waste production; land and biodiversity footprint; and energy consumption. By adopting standardised metrics within those sustainability categories, data centre operators will gain a thorough view of how their entire value chain impacts the environment.

With metrics in place, organisations can create action plans to mitigate data centres’ environmental impact. This will help operators reduce their negative impact on the environment and achieve operational efficiency. Leveraging cutting-edge software tools to help ingest and analyse data to these ends will ensure ongoing sustainability practices.

Data centre operators should consider energy use as one part of a holistic plan. Photo: Schneider Electric.
Data centre operators should consider energy use as one part of a holistic plan. Photo: Schneider Electric.

Software tools simplifying infrastructure management

Each data centre is one part of sprawling hybrid IT infrastructure that spans edge deployments and smaller regional data centres. Any failure at data centre level can cascade to impact the entire IT ecosystem. Limiting failure requires carefully monitoring and measuring the performance of various support systems, such as cooling and energy generation.

A software management system that measures the output and performance of every piece of infrastructure supporting the system is the only way to corral the complexity of data centre deployment and realise operational efficiencies.

READ MORE: Staying the course on energy targets

For example, data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) platforms allow operators to monitor, manage, plan and model physical IT infrastructure, even when it comprises thousands of devices spread across sites around the world. DCIM solutions help simplify management of complex hybrid IT architectures.

These solutions ingest and analyse data in real time, providing insight into everything from device health to environmental impact for a holistic view of data centre operations.

Resource stewardship creates competitive advantage

Using software to develop and maintain a green action plan does more than increase sustainability efforts. Sustainable operations manage resources in efficient ways, including increased agility and fuel innovation. Such innovation improves customers’ experience and helps create a digital culture that attracts the best candidates. Creating a sustainable IT infrastructure has a ripple effect on an organisation’s bottom line, as well as the environment.

The data centre industry requires vast resources to fuel its boom. Only through careful planning and measurement can operators become thoughtful stewards the industry needs to flourish.

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