We have seen large-scale digital transformation across industry sectors over the last two years, as well as a dramatic shift in how organisations operate. According to a recent IDC report, data has increased 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 a greater 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 these requirements are met is a power-intensive endeavor that results in rising CO2 emissions. Data centers currently consume a large amount of energy (about 200 terawatt hours per year), and the resulting emissions are expected to be greater than those produced by the entire aircraft industry.
At a time when environmental impact has become a mission-critical component of business operations, data centers have a huge opportunity to incorporate environmentally-friendly practices into their operations.
Data centers must find more efficient ways to use space and power. One way of doing this is by raising racks higher to fit more servers into the same floor space. Because they have a smaller footprint overall, taller racks can use more controlled cooling in a more contained space.
It is encouraging to see that data centers have become more conscious of their environmental impact in recent years. Some have recently remodeled their facilities to drastically reduce water consumption by implementing new water-cooling systems. New battery technology also ensures that fewer, longer-lasting batteries are used.
To reduce their environmental impact even further, data centers have begun to collaborate with local power utilities to increase the percentage of green energy they use. To offset their carbon footprints, many data centers purchase renewable energy credits, allowing them to invest in renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. Even if they continue to rely heavily on fossil fuel-generated electricity, 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 about sustainability in operations:
- Optimize resource utilization:
Many businesses have storage systems that are underutilized. To save energy and other resources, consolidate data where possible, and turn off devices that are not in use.
- Avoid data waste:
Research shows that 68% or more of data is never used once it has been created, and that up to 30% of an organisation’s unstructured data is duplicated, outmoded, or trivial. Enterprises should periodically take stock of their data to understand if there are redundancies, and how these can be reduced.
- Modernize operations:
IT solutions such as software-defined storage can help streamline and automate data and storage activities. With the use of machine learning and predictive analytics, enterprises can make better use of their storage solutions, boost efficiency, and enjoy optimum resource utilization.
- Leverage on-site and off-site storage methods:
While the focus on data centers as a storage method continues to rise, businesses are effectively delegating their carbon footprint to public cloud providers. Today, the cloud as a storage option has become a vital resource for companies aiming for net zero. By prioritizing sustainability and utilizing Cloud Insights to pinpoint underutilized and wasted resources and identify the most valuable data, enterprises can eliminate energy wastage in data centers.
- Train and educate leaders and employees:
Achieving sustainability goals is a shared responsibility between the enterprise and storage solution providers. Within the enterprise, it is imperative that workforces understand their impact on the environment, as well as steps that can be taken to jointly work towards achieving sustainability goals. Education and awareness are critical in ensuring this and will play an important role in meeting environmental goals.
Sustainable technology is that which meets the needs of the current generation without jeopardizing the needs of future generations. Businesses must develop and implement a strategy that combines cloud and physical storage in order to build better, more sustainable organisations.
The author is the Director, Solutions Engineering – India /SAARC, NetApp
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