I previously shared my thoughts on the growing need for the data center industry to address the impending edge energy challenge in an earlier blog focused on building sustainable edge data centers.
As our new normal continues to evolve in response to the global health crisis, I felt it important to re-visit and broaden my initial perspective to include a call to action for increased sustainability for data centers of all sizes. When considering the rapid rise in remote activities across industries and sectors, the data center has become the behind-the-scenes enabler of our new normal. Because of this intense dependency on data centers, outages resulting in a loss of video conferencing capabilities, remote monitoring and management access, or streaming content are gaining greater attention and public scrutiny. At a time when we are becoming increasingly dependent on data centers, it is critical for data centers to be both sustainable and resilient. We have a vision and a plan to accomplish both.
No turning back on the acceleration of digital transformation
Digital transformation has accelerated by years, in just a handful of months, in response to COVID-19. The progress gained in moving us closer to an all-digital world will not be reversed. Instead, we can and should expect to see an ongoing shift to digitization for many of our activities, both professional and personal. As noted in the recent report, ‘The Role of Infrastructure Stimulus in the COVID-19 Recovery and Beyond,’ from Boston Consulting Group and World Economic Forum, “preparing for a digital future is of paramount importance, since technology adoption is expected to accelerate post-COVID-19.”
To meet increasing demand, data centers must be adaptable, and resilient. At the same time, data centers must also be sustainable and efficient which presents an interesting, but not insurmountable paradox. Historically, in order to ensure greater resilience for a data center, the typical course of action was to increase redundancy, achieving greater resilience at the cost of efficiency and sustainability. At our current pace and based on internal modeling, energy consumption by data centers is expected to double by 2040; an increase largely attributed to the continued rise in edge data centers. Increased energy consumption by the data center industry will not go unnoticed by the public or by country governments as sustainability remains high on the agenda for both private and public sectors.
Despite the unprecedented times we are living in, I’m pleased to see that sustainability continues to be a priority as progress gained today should not be at the expense of future generations. A sentiment strongly supported at Schneider Electric. The general resistance to the de-prioritization of sustainability in the wake of the current global economic uncertainty (largely due to COVID-19) is a pretty stark contrast to other global economic downturns in recent memory, where sustainability slipped lower on the priority list. In fact, in a recent 451 Research report commissioned by Schneider Electric, 800+ multi-tenant data center (MTDC) service providers from 19 countries were asked to weigh in on their organization’s approach to resource efficiency and sustainability. Most respondents, 43% of the MTDCs, reported that they have a strategic sustainability program in place to improve the efficiency of their data center infrastructure through most of its lifecycle, specifically the design, build, and operate stages.
Solving the resilience and sustainability paradox together
As I mentioned earlier, the paradox of building data centers that are both resilient and sustainable, across the hybrid IT landscape, is solvable. At Schneider Electric, we believe that by working together, the full data center industry can address this challenge across four pillars:
- Sustainable – responsibly meeting business needs without compromising our shared future
- Efficient – Optimize cost, speed, and capital to increase return on investment
- Adaptive – Future-ready designs to accommodate new technologies
- Resilient – Reduce vulnerability to unplanned downtime
In preparing for Schneider Electric’s all-virtual Innovation Summit World Tour 2020, I had the great pleasure of speaking with Dan Boyce, Global Manager of Data Center Facilities at GSK, a world-leading pharmaceutical company. Dan and I had an engaging conversation around the efforts at GSK to ensure their hybrid IT environment – inclusive of IT rooms and micro data centers – addressed each of these four pillars, providing resilient and sustainable IT operations to enable their continued operations. As you can imagine, prior to COVID-19 this would have been a significant responsibility, one which has only taken on more urgency with increased demand during the global health crisis. I invite you to register for our Innovation Summit World Tour 2020 to access the full conversation. I encourage you to invest time in also exploring the latest strategies and technologies shared from my colleagues and industry experts from around the world as we collectively progress towards building a more resilient and sustainable future.