Four ways digital solutions can help data centers become more sustainable

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The data center industry has long been considered a pioneer in developing new ways to increase energy efficiency and incorporate renewable energy into its energy procurement strategy. Despite this, the ever-increasing demand for digital infrastructure means that data center power consumption will continue to increase.

data center sustainability with digital solutions

Meeting these increasing demands often appears contradictory to data center sustainability targets, but these can both be tackled through digitalization. According to the World Economic Forum, enterprises on the leading edge of digitalization realized a 70-percent increase in productivity, compared to a 30-percent increase for organizations that were slower to digitize their operations. Data centers can leverage digitalization to increase productivity and also address sustainability efforts. Typically, data center operators face four distinct challenges – reducing energy consumption, decreasing energy costs, increasing productivity, and maintaining reliability, all of which can be improved through digitalization.

1 – Reduce energy consumption

The prime focus on unlocking business value in data centers has traditionally been to consume less energy without sacrificing reliability, and that strategy remains valid today. Thanks to the digital transformation of energy management and automation, these two goals are perfectly complementary. Innovative software management tools allow visibility and control over the entire value chain of energy consumption. Businesses can now more quickly locate and execute performance enhancements with a central dashboard.

In Thailand, the government wanted to reduce the cooling costs and decrease the carbon footprint of its 70-rack data center. Given the hot and humid conditions in the region, any solution proposed needed to include real-time environmental monitoring down to a rack level. To address this challenge, we deployed Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxureTM Data Center Expert resulting in an immediate 38-percent reduction in the power used for cooling. In addition, more than 171 tons of CO2 were avoided, and there was a $36,000 annual reduction in energy costs. Lastly, this solution also enabled facility managers to better understand the data center’s thermal environment and set strategies to further improve reliability and efficiency.

2 – Reduce energy cost

Energy forms a large part of most organizations’ costs and that is especially true for data center operators. For example, one estimate by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that on average more than 40 percent of a typical data center’s operating costs go toward power costs. Businesses are moving toward a decarbonized, decentralized, and digitized future to address this challenge.

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) needed to improve the reliability of IT services and reduce its environmental impact. Any interruption in 24/7 service could negatively impact the experience of its 37,000 students. Helping to guard MMU against downtime and boost its energy efficiency is a suite of smart solutions including Schneider Electric’s Data Center Expert, Resource Advisor, and Cooling Monitoring Expert — all of which contributed to cooling costs being cut by 30 percent. This approach resulted in a data center tailored to the needs of MMU’s students and the departments that support them. As a result, it saves $4.77 million every year on energy costs and is on track to reduce its overall carbon footprint by 25 percent.

3 – Increase productivity

Space is precious in data centers. In the United States, a typical data center’s capital expenditure per net rentable square foot was listed at $1,305 in 2017. The route to better space utilization is to increase rack densities and digitally transform data centers to accommodate more density because tools now exist to manage the complexity. Customers that digitally transformed their data centers were able to improve material density by an average of 35 percent, up to 60 percent.

Rapid expansion at Genpact brought challenges to its IT infrastructure. Genpact called on Schneider Electric to revamp its IT infrastructure with remote monitoring and management tools, enabling it to easily monitor every piece of equipment across its operations, allowing for informed, proactive maintenance. The result is a 75-percent reduction in maintenance time and a 25-percent reduction in outages. Today, Genpact’s standardized data centers have reduced floor space by 50 percent, and they have delivered 25-percent savings on generator capacity and 20-percent savings on upstream cable and switchgear costs.

4 – Maintaining data center uptime

For data center managers, reliability is crucial and any unplanned downtime must be avoided. A recent Uptime Institute survey found that both the frequency and costs of outages are on the uptick. In fact, half of their survey respondents who experienced an outage reported that the incident cost more than $100,000. Digitally transformed data centers decrease unplanned downtime through predictive maintenance and enhanced visibility. This allows hotspots to receive fast, precise cooling, overloaded servers to be unburdened, and more. As a result, the data center becomes a more flexible, agile space where IT managers can see obstacles coming and dodge them more easily.

The demand for data is growing in Europe and to meet this requirement, Interxion by Digital Realty increased its capacity with a third data center located in Madrid. Though this project was different than previous deployments in Paris and Marseilles, France, the goal was the same: to build a secure, future-forward data space for minimal downtime to keep pace in the digital marketplace. This joint effort resulted in a data center deployed ahead of schedule, with 99.999-percent uptime, an 11-percent reduction in CapEx, all equipped with an end-to-end solution to maximize energy efficiency.

Ready to take the next steps to improve data center sustainability?

Leveraging digital solutions is just part of a sustainability game plan. Access a holistic approach to data center sustainability by downloading the new DCD and Schneider Electric eBook titled, “The Sustainability Challenge.”  In particular, Chapter One offers a practical framework for tackling sustainability goals as well as how to go beyond just tracking PUE.

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