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How to make data centres more sustainable

How to make data centres more sustainable

Gartner says working to attain environmentally sustainable infrastructure is a marathon, not a sprint, that requires long-term goal setting.

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Just a few weeks ago Gartner analysts said that sustainability and issues around it would transcend all of the strategic technology trends for 2023.

This week at its IT Infrastructure, Operations Cloud Strategies Conference, the analyst firm described how corporate data centres might make sustainability a practical reality.

“IT leaders must avoid wasting value through the premature replacement of IT infrastructure,” said Philip Dawson, vice president and analyst at Gartner, at the conference. “They can do that by using real-time health analytics to maximise the useful life of data centre assets.

“On-premises data centres and cloud providers are extending infrastructure lifecycles from three to five years and from five to seven years to help maximise OPEX cycles and reduce CAPEX investments tied to refresh,” Dawson stated.

Above all, the most-effective way that sustainability can reduce costs is through greater energy efficiency and optimised power consumption. It is paramount that infrastructure and operations (IO) leaders identify where and how data centre infrastructure can be optimised to consume less power, without hindering necessary business operations, Dawson stated.

Organisations need a sustainable-technology framework that increases the energy and material efficiency of IT services, and it must enable enterprise sustainability through traceability, analytics, renewable energy, and AI.

The framework should also call for the deployment of IT solutions that help organisations achieve their own sustainability goals, distinguished vice president and analyst at Gartner Frances Karamouzis said earlier at the research firm’s IT Symposium/Xpo 2022.

“Targeting areas such as data centre power consumption is low-hanging fruit because it’s easy to measure,” Karamouzis said.

“What enterprises need to look at is what to deploy as they get more and more data. Are they looking at buying more storage the same old way or are they looking at optimising that system by looking at things like DNA storage and looking at the level of redundancy they need and implementing technology with a sustainable mindset.”

Environmental sustainability on CEOs' radar, with nine per cent of them putting it among their top three business priorities, Gartner stated. Nearly 70 per cent of them who Garnter surveyed plan to invest in new sustainable products and in make existing products more sustainable, the analysts stated.

Dawson said businesses should minimise greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions from data centres by investing in suitable GHG emissions-offsetting programs rather than depending on supply-chain checks, or established token programs.

They should also participate in a circular economy – one that reuses, shares, or recycles as much equipment as possible. Gartner said 74 per cent of supply-chain leaders expect circular-economy activities to improve profitability between now and 2025.

To create a sustainable and eco-friendly data centre, Dawson said IO leaders should consider using water-usage effectiveness (WUE) to track  sources of water used to cool data centres and move away from drinking water and toward grey water—seawater, recycled water, or rainwater-collection systems.

Additionally, immersion-cooling systems could deliver on sustainability and support better compute capability to strategic locations than is possible with conventional air-cooled racks.

This is in addition to creating a baseline footprint of IO by aggregating and tracking data such as server/storage utilisation, power-usage effectiveness of their on-premises or cloud-based data centres, and the number of end-user devices per employee.

Other methods include establishing specific and measurable IT sustainability goals and measure progress. The goals can be long term, such as targets for emissions reduction or zero waste based on the organisation’s unique data.

Businesses can also optimise sustainability processes and partnerships by defining a framework of accountability and formalising policies across people, process, technologies, and business.

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