Data Center

Making the start towards greater environmental efficiencies through tech

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Although the APAC region is not immediately associated as a leading regional force for promoting, readily adopting, or creating sustainable green tech innovations, the pace of change has gained rapid momentum as public awareness and corporate and country responsibilities have increased. Additionally, APAC’s green infrastructure investments are expected to surge to $1.3 trillion within the next decade in a bid to dramatically lower power and data centre overheads and re-instate the region as a pioneer in green efficiencies, especially from solar and wind. Renewable power generation for the data centres is top of the adoption list for IT leads as the region gradually eases dependencies on fossil fuels. Corporations are becoming more aware of their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) responsibilities and metrics, which, in some countries in the region, are set shortly to become mandatory regulations.

How do IT leads increase environmental efficiencies in the region?

Some have already taken the transition to Cloud to transform the shape of infrastructures with a knock-on effect in reducing power consumption. Cloud offers the same green advantages as virtualisation, cutting carbon footprint on-prem and transferring it to a shared environment elsewhere, modernising consumption along the way. Whether IT estates remain on-prem, hybrid, or fully cloud, undeniably the power sources that feed them are also changing, with China, Japan and India, now listed by Reuters as being among the top contributors to developing renewable investments globally.

That’s a positive APAC start to energy transformation aided by changing attitudes of CIOs and IT leads who have shifted to a mature, committed stance to delivering viable and sustained change and awareness of their IT footprint. Environmental sustainability is now an undeniable business imperative fueled by worldwide accords. The Paris Climate Agreement surfaced late in 2015, legally binding countries to commit and deliver on climate change goals. Leading organisations within APAC’s represented countries, including China, Japan, and South Korea, now accept that they have a social and moral responsibility to reduce emissions and resource usage and have committed to the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 (albeit significantly later than the goals set by the rest of the world). The problem restricting the net-zero aim earlier in the APAC region is the dominance of readily available, cheap coal – net-zero’s number one enemy. Asia – and particularly developing economies like India – have the highest number of new and operating coal power stations, most of which can continue burning fossil fuels for another 30 years. That said, most responsible organisations who have set carbon neutrality in their sights are not just paying lip service to environmental tech, viewing it as the only viable and sustainable option for their board, shareholders, and employees.

Restating the number 1 goal for all in IT across the region – reducing electrical power reliance on fossil fuel – can also be assisted on an organisational level. Reduction of consumption starts with understanding exactly what is drawing and using power from within the estate. Not just a listing of assets updated periodically, but a real-time window on which assets are actually used, which applications rely on them, and the age of asset to provide further indicators as to efficiency and power draw.  This is discovery but with reduce, re-use, and recycle top of mind. It is an essential first step to allow organisations to have a realistic benchmark from which to measure reductions in carbon footprint and achieve a framework for accountability. This may sound like a high barrier to entry, as estates are incredibly complex, dynamic, and dispersed. To keep focus on the overall change goals, it’s often better to pass this to a qualified third party who can automate the discovery and ongoing tracking and audit process, globally. In any sizeable estate, the results will quickly reveal immediate inefficiencies that you can then start to tackle, flagging inactive or under-utilized servers.  Results are individual, but as a general rule, users detect that up to 20% of servers draw power without doing any useful work.

It is imperative to understand that with an asset discovery designed to highlight environmental sustainability, conclusions will allow organisations to both reduce and repurpose their IT assets. If you go with an IT provider that can knit automation and intelligence into your environmental ITAD, then repurposing results will be stronger still. ParkView Discovery™ from Park Place Technologies, is one such hosted service that brings automation and intelligence into Asset Management discovery and is becoming a critical tool for environmental planning as it allows users to identify all their assets across a global network and in cloud-based environments through comprehensive discovery tools, holistically and in real-time.

Many APAC businesses have explored transferring environmental tech responsibility by increasing dependencies on multi-tenanted data centres that tout green credentials. That decision alone does not necessarily negate responsibility or immediately provide the desired green outcome unless the data centre can commit to total usage of renewable energy. 2020 media reports in the US showed that multi-tenant data centres are one of the largest per capita consumers of electric power, with a single data centre using the power equivalent of a small city, while also requiring a significant amount of water for cooling. Worldwide, data centres account for 3% of all electricity supply consumption, but with the exponential growth of data fuelling the digital economy, industry analysts and researchers, IDC, predicts consumption will rise to 10% by 2030. So, unless your multi-tenant data centre was designed and built from the outset to be environmentally sustained (through solar or wind power, water reclamation, zero water-cooling, recycling and waste management) than transferal of the problem is not necessarily the solution, unless you can be confident of Environmental, Social and Governance impact on an ongoing basis.  The second issue is that of location. True green data centres built from the ground up, take advantage of their natural surroundings to capture sunlight, lower ambient temperatures, harness wind, or hydropower. But these naturally beneficial conditions for cooling are usually limited to remote cold climates not found in the APAC region and usage thereby, can increase latency and introduce complexities of different data governance across boundaries.

For those organisations who wish to demonstrate efficiencies on-prem and in cloud, reutilizing servers is another area to explore for non-critical applications, in turn making cost saving on the alternative of purchasing new hardware, while also protecting the depletion of irreplaceable materials as well as also reducing waste landfill impact. The concept of End of Service Life (EOSL) support on most hardware assets can be easily extended via third-party maintenance (TPM) warranty, allowing you to keep the hardware for longer. Additionally, there is value for both sellers and buyers to be realised for the sale and purchase of older tech in the pre-owned market, again helping with waste control and repurposing goals.

Critically, like the rest of society, IT faces is a stark choice to embrace environmental change and to help avert an otherwise certain climate disaster. Society as a whole is learning that our former reliance on disposable goods is no longer desired, nor acceptable. IT faces the same challenge. The days of disposable tech are long gone.

Data source : Asia-Pacific green energy investment to surge to ‘$1.3 trillion by 2030′ June 22, 2021:

(The author Michael Cantor, CIO, Park Place Technologies and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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