While global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree since 1880, the advent of technology has brought about a sea change in the environmental landscape. According to NASA reports, nine out of the 10 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000 and the year 2015 ranks as the warmest. The trend is likely to continue and become worse. In such global warming backdrop, cloud computing majors are increasingly looking for a green solution to save the mother nature from further affecting with the operations.
The modern society is craving for data as technology is shifting to cloud-based, thus there is a race to set up data centers all over the world, particularly in India and Asia. In such scenario cloud giants are looking for green solution to keep their operations environmentally sustainable and ecologically viable, so that the environmental costs don’t occupy the cost of digitalisation.
A shift to green data centers
Data centers consume a huge amount of power and to curb that power consumptions green data centers can be the best solution. For example, according to NRDC study US data centers consumed about 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014, the most recent year examined, representing 2 percent of the country’s total energy consumption. A green data center is one in which mechanical, electrical and computer systems are designed for maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact.
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Several strategies can be used to reduce carbon footprint such as minimizing the footprint of buildings, use of low-emission building materials, waste and water recycling, and use of alternative energy technologies such as evaporative cooling, photovoltaics, heat pumps, etc. In an effort to improve their environmental credentials and lower costs of operation, many companies are already working towards reducing electricity and water usage at their data centers.According to Green Consultant, Green business is smart business. Going green provides bottom line cost savings, as well as a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Cloud Giants such as Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Google are spending billions to build data centers. While Google set up its first data centers in Singapore and Taiwan, Amazon Web Services (AMS) built data centers in Singapore and Tokyo (Japan).
Microsoft leading the Sustainable Data Revolution
According to Rob Bernard, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist, on Microsoft’s Green Blog”We’re now entering a new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in which major advances in every field will be driven by data – the electricity of our age – and the datacenters that will make this massive use of data possible.
These technological innovations have the ability to transform the way we address societal issues related to sustainability at scale. Already, we are seeing cloud-based technologies make a meaningful impact around the world. The cloud is helping companies and communities tackle water scarcity, reduce fuel consumption by public transportation, adopt clean energy like solar power, improve food resiliency in a changing climate, and understand and predictchanges in the ocean.”
Perhaps Microsoft announced that its data centers globally would be powered by 50 percent renewable energy by 2018. The IT giant also plans to increase the use of renewable power for data centers to 60 percent by 2020s.
”Already, we are at 44 percent and signed a new deal to bring 20 megawatts of new solar energy onto the grid in Virginia earlier this year. And we continue to support public policies designed to accelerate the availability and affordability of renewable energy on the grid” said bernard in the blogpost.
Google, Apple, Facebook on green track
Apple joined global renewable energy initiative RE100, reaffirming its commitment to reaching 100 percent renewable energy worldwide and pledging to work with the initiative to drive clean energy into the manufacturing supply chain. Apple is already powering its operations in the US, China and 21 other countries with 100 percent renewable energy; and, in 2015, powered 93 percent of its operations around the world with renewable energy.
The company continues to invest in high-quality, clean energy projects to help it meet and maintain its goal, and Jackson announced today that Apple has completed construction on its latest renewable energy project — a 50-megawatt solar farm in Arizona. Apple worked with local utility Salt River Project on the solar array, which will provide renewable power to Apple’s global command data center in Mesa, Arizona. That’s equal to the energy use of over 12,000 Arizona homes.
For over ten years, Google has been building some of the most efficient data centers in the world. In fact, Google data centers use 50 per cent less energy than the typical data center. Apart from that Google has aimed for 100% renewable energy sources, claiming to be the largest non-utility purchaser of renewable energy in the world and recycle100% of the electronic equipment that leaves Google’s data centers.
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“Before we buy new equipment and materials, we look for ways to repair the server, often with refurbished parts – in fact, in 2015, 75% of all components used in repair were refurbished. We also use refurbished parts to upgrade older servers, prolonging their use. And when we can’t find a new use for equipment, we completely erase any components that store data, and then resell them, putting nearly 2 million usable components back into the market in 2015” said Google blogpost.
Facebook makes availability of a renewable energy supply as one key criteria of new data center siting decisions. That means states that can’t address this need could miss out on that economic opportunity.
“In some markets, particularly regulated markets in this country, it’s difficult to buy clean energy — in some cases more or less impossible,” said Bill Weihl, Facebook’s director of sustainability, during the briefing.Facebook’s long-term goal is to source all of its power needs using renewable energy. As a short term “stretch goal,” Facebook hopes to ensure that 50 percent of its supply is generated through clean power sources by 2018, Weihl said. Facebook today has data centers in Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas. It leases space in Virginia.
India not far behind
While tech giants along with other global companies including Mcdonalds, Walmart, Dell, Coca Cola, Brooks and Target, among others have taken green initiatives in a big way, Indian companies are not far behind. This is especially true for e-commerce leaders Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart all trying to adopt green business practices to reduce the consumption of power as much as possible.
Very recently, domestic e-commerce player Snapdeal announced that it would decrease power consumption by producing nearly 1MW at peak through solar panels and generate 1.5 million units per year at its centers.
Snapdeal’s recent move is also followed by installation of auto controllers for lighting systems, extensive use of skylights at larger centres, LED lighting, roof insulation, and HVLS Fans, etc.