Prioritising efficiency and ESG is critical to data centre sustainability

In the post-pandemic cloud/ESG-first era, data centres are power hungry lynchpins that need hyper efficiency to keep the world churning. In the past few years, Australia, and the world, weathered the storm of lockdowns, rushed digital transformation, and shifts to hybrid-working due to the scalability of data centres to support skyrocketing levels of cloudification.

Still, the capacity for data centres to support escalating demand for cloud and digital services is being affected by ongoing supply chain disruptions and acute labour shortages. Furthermore, spiking inflation and energy prices, exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war, have forced every level of organisation to rearrange supply chains and adjust energy costs.

The volatility has driven up energy consumption costs, and managing such critical expenses are and will be a priority imperative for successful, future-proof data centre operations. While these global shocks do not exclusively impact the data centre segment, the exponentially growing role of back-end data centre processing and storage in everyday commercial, consumer and social use has magnified the challenges of the cloud data centre landscape.

How can data centre operators meet ESG goals?

So, how are data centre operators coping? The following are some of the strategies being pursued with environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) in mind.

Doing more with narrower margins for error

The speed and volume of data being generated, processed and transported by cloud-reliant and cloud-based applications is growing exponentially. Downtime is costly and intolerable.

Many critical apps require very low latencies to work well. Therefore, data centres are being moved to the edge of the network to shave those last few precious milliseconds off the response time. Also, 5G is being used to achieve low latency bandwidth for advanced apps. 

Chasing greater energy efficiencies

For data centre operators, efficiency is not so much a metric for profitability as it is for survival in 2023. The bottom line is that data centres must look to increase the efficiency of service delivery, using leading-edge fibre and infrastructure and machine learning and AI tools.

At the same time, data centre operators must also increase efficiency in terms of energy use per unit of compute power. When weighing energy efficiency, cost is the most obvious factor, but it is by no means the only one. Increasingly over the next few years, sustainability metrics are expected to significantly influence operations and decision making.

In a year where global geopolitical tensions, rolling blackouts and increasing energy prices in Australia, particularly for the business sector, are uncertainties to be contended with, both regulatory and social opinions will only tilt further away from data centre developers. That is why energy efficiency takes top priority, and data centres are under pressure to:

  • convert to the most efficient and accessible storage media
  • use detailed analytics to identify storage, compute, and power consolidation opportunities
  • deploy ultra-efficient, uninterruptible power supply systems
  • evaluate their facility’s thermal limits and switch to colocation to share electrical and communications overheads
  • perform real time measurements of stress on the existing electrical grid and transitioning to more sustainable power localise to the data centre. Siting facilities near renewable energy sources is also strongly considered.

The world needs to embrace ESG

On a more strategic level, moving data centres to the edge, connected by high-speed fibre, can also enhance energy efficiency and latency. All of the strategies above, and many others, show how much efficiency in our daily cloud-centric lives now depends on data centres.

While many people may never appreciate the broader social and commercial impact a data centre has on the world, it is worth remembering how fast, robust data storage and processing can improve all of the most vital and often overlooked parts of everyday living.

Matias Peluffo is the Vice President, Enterprise Infrastructure, APAC at CommScope.

Matias Peluffo, Vice President, Enterprise Infrastructure, APAC at CommScope