The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digital change to unprecedented levels, highlighting the critical importance of data centers in the face of global disruptions.
Simultaneously, there is a mounting awareness of the need to address climate change and decarbonize our economies.
The pressures of digitalization and climate change converge in data centers. Organizations want new digital infrastructure to process and retain the growing amount of data they generate – and they require it quickly. But it is also vital for that infrastructure to have an as minimal environmental impact as possible and to last for decades despite climate change.
The fundamental issue in data center design and construction is processing and storing ever-increasing volumes of data while using less natural resources.
Cisco predicts that annual data traffic will double to 4.8 zettabytes (4.8 trillion gigabytes) by 2022, and there will be more than 4.8 billion active internet users during the same period. However, as the demand for data centers and the cloud computing services they enable grows, so does the pressure – environmental, economic, and legal – to expand them in a sustainable manner.
Over the last decade, the data center industry has undoubtedly created significant innovations in ints technology-sharing operations and infrastructures. But there’s a looming risk that threatens to engulf the very existence of data centers: climate change.
Scientists across the world have accumulated more than enough evidence to claim that the earth’s temperature could grow between 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century.
Datacenter operators must be ready for anything, especially in the face of climate change. When it comes to Mother Nature, they should not be complacent. No one can foresee when natural disasters would strike a business. Companies must anticipate worst-case scenarios and establish strategies to minimize them.
Here’s A List Of 5 Climate Change Concerns That Will Affect A Data Center’s Operations
The biggest worry of data centers is heatwaves. Overheating is a common problem with Internet servers. They cannot operate at high temperatures, and more critically, they shut down when the temperature exceeds a certain threshold. Therefore, cooling systems in data centers must keep average ambient temperatures under control while also reducing excessive temperatures.
Snow and Ice Storms
Datacenter facilities can be found in areas that have witnessed snow and ice storms as well as sub-freezing temperatures. There may be instances when locations encounter wintertime extremes, which can have an impact on operations. In the event of a severe snowstorm, these facilities must have plans to keep the servers at the proper operating temperature, and a means to get the workers to their work sites.
Tornadoes can cause infrastructure damage and loss of life. Therefore, data centers should be built in places that have never been hit by extreme tornadoes.
A significant hurricane or typhoon can harm infrastructure in both direct and indirect ways. Hurricanes and typhoons are tropical phenomena that can go beyond the tropics on occasion. High winds, flooding, and power outages can all have an impact on buildings.
Facilities should be located in regions that are not at high risk of hurricanes.
Flooding near data centers can be just as destructive as hurricanes or heavy thunderstorms, if not more. Floodwaters could infiltrate into the buildings housing the servers, resulting in a failure. In addition, flooding can occur due to snowmelt, severe storms, or even damaged pipelines. The best piece of advice is to build flood control barriers in case of an emergency.
Here’s A List Of 5 Reasons Data Centers Need To Plan For Climate Change
Demand For Alternative Energy
As the current and possible consequences of climate change become more and more apparent, a growing number of organizations are reevaluating their energy practices and inclining towards sustainable options in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
That’s not all – these accountable companies are putting a good amount of pressure on their suppliers, vendors, and all other stakeholders to do the same. And we cannot ignore the fact that most of this pressure comes from their consumers, who are evolving to become more environmentally conscious than ever.
Several kinds of research have pointed to the fact that companies that adopt sustainable practices are reaping several benefits for their efforts, like achieving a better growth rate than their complacent competitors.
And given the impressive amount of power they devour annually, there’s no doubt that data centers are easy targets when it comes to measuring energy consumption.
Unfortunately, private, on-premises data centers are notorious for their inefficiency when it comes to power consumption and cooling; they often lack the optimized infrastructure required to maximize performance while leaving behind a minimum carbon footprint. On top of that, they are usually stored in environments that weren’t devised initially with energy efficiency in mind.
On the other hand, Colocation facilities provide cutting-edge equipment that enables them to perform the same workloads with far less energy consumption. Green data centers can also adopt an active approach to sustainability by promoting investments in alternative energy sources through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). With big corporations such as Apple and Google utilizing their scalable facilities to stimulate the construction of more green data centers, all firms must build their own sustainability strategy.
As climate change evolves to become a more pressing issue for organizations, facilities that have failed to make the commitments or investments in alternative energy will have a hard time competing.
Too Frequent And Too Many Natural Disasters
While it has long been assumed that rising global temperatures would lead to more extreme weather catastrophes, scientists are now able to link these disasters to climate change clearly. For example, according to some recent study, up to 60% of locations in North America, Europe, East Asia, and southern South America would have three times as frequent extreme occurrences in the future years.
And we can only imagine the scale of damage these natural occurrences would impart on data centers. Higher the risks of a natural calamity. Higher will be the risk of power disruption, physical damage to high-cost equipment, and, more importantly, data loss – all of which are more than capable of crippling a business.
It goes without saying – planning ahead and making necessary arrangements for natural disasters should always be among the top priorities for any given facility. Even more, given that the possibility that these disasters will happen more often in the future makes it even more imperative for data centers to invest in comprehensive recovery plans.
For example, one can start by building robust redundancies that will enable the facility to function on backup power without having to experience server downtime, in addition to applying regular maintenance routines to keep those systems up and running.
Strive For AI Efficiency
Organizations will increasingly look to predictive analytics for direction as they strive to make their operations more efficient in order to cut power consumption and manage climate-related risk. These applications, which are powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, will enable a wide range of energy-saving methods. They will also assist organizations and governments in more successfully managing the human implications of climate change. For example, how will climate change influence logistics and supply chains? Or how will the international community cope with the surge of migrants forced to flee their homes due to natural disasters?
And it’s well-predicted that green data centers will play a central role in empowering and backing up the next generation of machine learning and AI.
Whether it is hyperscale facilities that provide the scalable cloud computing power that enables advanced analytics or merely achieving the data storage needs of companies that use the Internet of Things (IoT) devices to accumulate actionable data from the edge of their networks, data centers must take steps to prepare for future AI demands. For example, AI algorithms will undoubtedly play a prominent part if scientists and engineers essentially build realistic carbon capture and scrubbing technology that enables companies to reverse emissions trends.
Build New Location Strategies
Companies must reevaluate their data center location choices as climate change changes weather patterns all around the earth. Many companies continuously evaluate risk based on out-of-date information. For example, in March 2019, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced updated projected flood maps along Florida’s western coast, the first such update in nearly 30 years. Companies that thought they were safe from flooding discovered that their data backup strategy was not as secure as they thought.
Today, more than ever, a data center location strategy should include long-term vision and plans.
With climate change increasing the danger of catastrophic weather events and threatening to displace millions of people, it is critical to consider how conditions in a geographic region may change in future years and impact disaster recovery risks. In order to give better security and peace of mind to their clients, data center firms must assess how their new facilities fit into a larger location strategy that takes shifting climate conditions into account.
Understanding Cooling Needs
Data center cooling mechanisms continue to play a central role in enhancing overall energy efficiency. Although a good number of facilities still depend on the HVAC cooling systems, new breakthroughs and scientific innovations in infrastructure management and AI have helped even the more traditional solutions to consume less power and cut energy costs,
New mechanisms, like the different forms of liquid cooling, could also help green data centers amplify their computing power without a corresponding increase in energy usage. All in all, these innovations are definitely more than capable of assisting businesses to cut their carbon footprint and enhance sustainability drastically.
Increased temperatures may prompt more businesses to locate sustainable data centers or collocate with colder facilities. These data centers have advanced cooling systems that use outside air more economically, lowering cooling expenses. Because hotter climates are likely to become progressively hotter in the following years, recognizing growth possibilities in colder places could be combined with advancements in cooling technologies to provide even greater energy efficiency.
The impact of global warming already has a substantial impact on how businesses design their data center strategy. As extreme weather events become more regular and the demand for sustainable energy practices rises, they must evaluate how to account for these changes in their data center solution. Collaboration with a flexible colocation facility with the agility necessary to drive energy savings and provide feasible backup solutions can help enterprises meet their sustainability concerns, and disaster recovery demands more effectively as they move towards a potentially disruptive future.