By Richard Jenkins
The environmental impact of data is difficult to see from the consumer perspective. We have expectations of being able to access information immediately, want our service providers to be able to do the same and it is essential for every corporation to make historical data available at the click of a button.
Data is the biggest environmental pressure being placed on the world today as the emissions from massive data centers break new global restrictions and the power consumed to run these essential services spirals upwards at a time when power production is in a radical state of change. Sustainable data centers can lesson that impact.
Data provides information which, in the right hands, makes a company better at what it does. It is able to compete stronger, predict more accurately, budget efficiently and invest strategically. Data, or Big Data as it is now called, is a great asset to have.
That data, however, needs infrastructure to house, manage and secure it. This infrastructure is a physical “thing” which has to continually grow to effectively transport and utilize the data. While the value of the data outweighs the problem of managing it, there are many financial, regulatory, political and social implications to its growth.
The process of managing and serving data, however, requires energy and creates heat. Infrastructure is metal, so it retains heat; water used for cooling requires power to chill; and facilities require precisely controlled environmental conditions – temperature, air flow, air pressure, humidity, etc. – to prevent potentially disastrous business consequences.
In such a rapidly expanding sector, the costs of equipment must be low (as the company needs to buy so much of it on an ongoing basis) and the resources required to run at the highest performance must be scalable. This is the challenge for most companies. Facilities space is running out, servers and other “live” equipment have to be continually available and data center operators are in an increasing battle to balance growth with consolidation.
Alongside the data center increase is the inevitable power supply demand. While data centers and servers are becoming more energy efficient, there will always be massive power consumption, accompanied by unavoidable heat and CO2 emission impacts on the environment.
In Europe, power generation and consumption has truly brought together a “united states” of Europe. With the UK recently reporting it will be close to maximum power use by 2015, it already buys 20 percent of France’s nuclear-generated power. While technology and efficiency are evolving rapidly, the sheer number of data centers being built, expanded and utilized to their maximum will demand more power than is being created or can be saved.
Power generation is a major issue, but stabilizing environmental damage has led to regulations affecting those companies big enough to need large data centers. Regulations require accurate reporting, C-level sign off, stringent carbon emission standards to be met, reductions in fossil fuel-based power consumption and other corporate processes which must be addressed with immediate effect.
Carbon standards have been introduced worldwide with mature carbon taxation in Europe and Australia. These mechanisms set maximum emissions limits which can be met by reducing power consumption – so reducing the impact of generating that power and the heat emitted by using it. Paying for carbon credits – a form of trading where a company can buy carbon offset credits from accredited sustainable power production, or other recognized sustainable businesses – also balances the energy being consumed over regulatory guidelines.
Being a “polluter” means more than a hefty electricity bill and a fine for non-compliance, though. Investors, customers, suppliers and the media now judge the performance, value and strategy of a company based (partly) on its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), specifically its environmental impact and what it is doing about it.
Pitfalls of inadequate environmental strategies include; a company’s brand can be damaged by sending the wrong sustainability message; a lack of investment in change can result in customers choosing to instead buy products from
Being “clean and green” is good for brand, good for revenue, good for financial efficiency and good for the future stature of a company.
There is a rapid move towards the protection of data. Some reasons for this are financial, due to massive fines being levied for security and regulatory infringements. Others are strategic, with organizations planning to remain the dominant force in their sector by leveraging the power of the data center to their advantage. It is clear that, like the climate, there is no going back when it comes to data generation, so it is essential for executives and their companies to invest in addressing these issues.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and you can’t measure what you don’t monitor.
[image credit: Intel Free Press: Flickr cc]
Richard Jenkins joined RF Code in 2012 and brings over 21 years of management and international marketing of small and large IT, media and investment organizations. Prior to joining RF Code, Jenkins was instrumental in the launch and growth of a number of IT, cleantech and media organizations while CEO of Performedia International. From 2007, he served as Senior Vice President of an international cleantech investment firm, Kyoto Planet, where he launched a publishing company, built an international network of business, political and science leaders, and led the company’s business development group. Prior to this, Jenkins held the position of Vice President International Development at Corporate Radar (later acquired by Microsoft) after developing the global business partner marketing strategy for Crystal Decisions and Business Objects. Jenkins also spent four years setting up the IBM/Tivoli partner channels in EMEA and Asia Pacific during which time he led the launch of new mid-market products achieving 179% of targets in the first two years. He then moved to Austin, TX, to manage global partner marketing. In 1995, Jenkins launched an IT consulting organization in the UK which was later acquired by GE Capital IT Solutions. Jenkins has lived and worked in Europe, Asia, the US and Canada.
TriplePundit has published articles from over 1000 contributors. If you'd like to be a guest author, please get in touch!