Q&A: How Data Centers Can Become More Energy Efficient
Original Post in Digital Journal
As the world becomes more digital, electricity consumption in data centers will surge — that number could rise to 8 percent of the global total by 2030. A leading expert looks at energy efficiency options.
Businesses are completely reliant on the technology — the infrastructure uses electricity to power storage equipment, servers, backups and cooling infrastructure (most servers need temperatures below 80 degrees). However, while businesses may not be able to reduce their use of data centers, there are ways to put energy efficiencies in place — which is crucial for companies who face environmental employee activism.
Digital Journal: How important are data centers for modern businesses?
Jim Kozlowski: Whether you’re an existing enterprise operating your workloads on a mainframe or a new startup born in the cloud, a data center is behind the IT power for your entire organization. If anything, the importance of data centers has increased as new data-dependent technologies, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, have emerged. These technologies require huge volumes of data to identify patterns and produce accurate and relevant results. As data aggregation and analysis continue to be a top priority for CIOs, data center management plays a vital role in business success.
DJ: What is the contribution of data centers to global electricity demand?
Kozlowski: Data centers use electricity to power IT equipment such as servers, storage equipment, network, and cooling systems to keep the IT equipment at the right operational temperature. After all is said and done, data center infrastructure consumes about 2% of electricity worldwide. That number could rise to 8% of the global total by 2030 given the spike in companies digitally transforming. As we continue to experience a global shift toward cloud-based technologies, increasing our use of connected devices, 5G networks, cryptocurrencies and AI, we can also expect electricity consumption in data centers to increase. However, while businesses will be increasing their use of data centers, there are ways to put energy efficiencies in place.
DJ: How can data centers be made more energy efficient?
Kozlowski: Data centers built today use designs and methods that drive the highest efficiency power use in the IT industry. However, many existing data centers can be upgraded to increase efficiency through improved cooling systems, high-efficiency UPS systems as well as building management systems that operate data centers at optimal performance. In addition, businesses can move from their existing data rooms and systems to managed service providers such as Ensono where we utilize shared IT infrastructure and efficient data center design.
DJ: Can new technologies assist?
Kozlowski: New technologies are being developed to improve older systems with higher power efficiencies or more IT output in a smaller footprint.
DJ: Are there any case studies you can share?
Kozlowski: At Ensono, we saw an opportunity to reduce the electricity consumption in our Downers Grove, Ill. data center. We implemented several energy efficiencies, including a new UPS system, and overall saved 1,190,135 kWh of electricity, which is enough to power nearly 137.2 homes with electricity for a year – the equivalent of 794.8 acres of trees planted, or 143.4 cars removed from the road.
DJ: How important are business green policies in terms of attracting the next generation?
Kozlowski: As Gen Zers and Millennials make up a larger percentage of the workplace, the industry is seeing a significant increase in the number of employees concerned with their company’s environmental policies. Operating as a socially responsible company is important to our current associates and those we’re looking to attract. In terms of environmental impact, a key area where Ensono can move the needle from an operations perspective is power. Data centers consume a great deal of power and it’s important that we do our best to manage our power use effectively to lessen our impact on the environment.
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