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Global State of Data Center Sustainability, CIO News, ET CIO

By Shuja Mirza,

We have seen a large-scale digital transformation across all industry sectors over the past two years, as well as a sea change in the way organizations operate. According to a recent report from IDC, data has grown at an exponential rate and is on track to reach 175 zettabytes by 2025. At this rate, we will most likely surpass 1 yottabyte of data created in a single year by 2030. As a result, there is more reliance on reliable data storage and management options, such as data centers.

Today’s data centers have features such as 24/7 availability, security, scalability, and performance. Ensuring that all of these requirements are met is an energy-intensive undertaking that results in increased CO2 emissions. Data centers currently consume a large amount of energy (about 200 terawatt hours per year) and the resulting emissions are expected to exceed those produced by the entire aviation industry.

At a time when environmental impact has become an essential component of business operations, data centers have a huge opportunity to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into their operations.

Driving change

Data centers need to find more efficient ways to use space and energy. One way to achieve this is to raise the racks higher to fit more servers in the same floor space. Because they have a smaller overall footprint, taller racks can utilize more controlled cooling in a more confined space.

It is encouraging to see that data centers have become more aware of their environmental impact in recent years. Some have recently remodeled their facilities to drastically reduce water consumption by installing new water cooling systems. The new battery technology also ensures that fewer and longer lasting batteries are used.

To further reduce their impact on the environment, data centers have begun working with local electric utilities to increase the percentage of green energy they use. To offset their carbon footprint, many data centers purchase renewable energy credits, which allow them to invest in renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. Even if they continue to rely heavily on electricity generated from fossil fuels, a data center with enough energy credits can claim carbon neutrality. These credits can be used in conjunction with their larger sustainability efforts, which include energy and water conservation, waste management, and other measures.

5 ways data centers can bring sustainability to operations:

  1. Optimize the use of resources:

Many companies have underutilized storage systems. To save power and other resources, consolidate data whenever possible and turn off devices that are not in use.

  1. Avoid data waste:

Research shows that 68% or more of data is never used once it’s created, and up to 30% of an organization’s unstructured data is duplicated, outdated, or trivial. Companies should periodically take stock of their data to understand if there are redundancies and how they can be reduced.

  1. Modernize operations:

IT solutions such as software-defined storage can help streamline and automate data and storage activities. With machine learning and predictive analytics, businesses can better utilize their storage solutions, increase efficiency, and enjoy optimal resource utilization.

  1. Take advantage of onsite and offsite storage methods:

As the focus on data centers as a storage method continues to increase, companies are effectively delegating their carbon footprint to public cloud providers. Today, the cloud as a storage option has become a vital resource for businesses aiming for net zero. By prioritizing sustainability and using Cloud Insights to identify underutilized and wasted resources and identify the most valuable data, companies can eliminate energy waste in data centers.

  1. Train and educate leaders and employees:

Achieving sustainability goals is a shared responsibility between business and storage solution providers. Within the company, it is imperative that employees understand their impact on the environment, as well as the steps that can be taken to work together towards achieving sustainability goals. Education and awareness are key to ensuring this and will play an important role in achieving environmental goals.

Sustainable technology is one that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations. Businesses need to develop and implement a strategy that combines cloud and physical storage to build better, more sustainable organizations.

The author is Director, Solutions Engineering – India /SAARC, NetApp

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