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How to Make Data Centres More Environmentally-Friendly

As our reliance on data centres is set is set to continue growing, their intense energy consumption is becoming an environmental issue that the industry can no longer ignore. In recent years, data centre operators and large companies with in-house data centres have started to recognise this issue, taking steps to make their data centres environmentally-friendly in any way possible. Read on to find out what steps you can take to make your own data centre or server room more eco-friendly.

1. Increase the Temperature

Modern data centre equipment can function at much higher temperatures than legacy setups, meaning that it doesn’t require the same level of cooling to keep it functioning at optimal speed – and lower energy use means a smaller carbon footprint.

One common misconception that has prevented data centres from lowering their energy costs by raising the temperature is that data centres can only operate at low temperature. However, studies by Intel and Microsoft have proven that data centre servers can cope just fine with temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius. The key is not to have your data centre operating at a certain temperature, but rather maintaining it at one set temperature, whether that be higher than the standard 21 degrees Celsius or not.

2. Use Renewable Energy

Even without the need for extensive cooling systems, data centres are notorious for their energy consumption. The only thing left to do once you can’t possibly lower your energy consumption any further is to ensure that whatever energy you do use comes from green energy sources rather than from fossil fuels.

Renewable energy can also be used to power backup generators which traditionally rely on diesel as a fuel source. As these only need to be in the case of an outage, the energy they require can be created a number of different ways and stored until required. In urban areas, solar panels are the perfect eco-friendly energy source, while wind turbines and hydroelectricity can be used in larger data centre facilities located in remote areas.

3. Rethink Your Cooling

If increasing the temperature in your current data centre isn’t a viable option, then rethinking the way you cool your equipment can also help you make your data centre more environmentally-friendly.

One ingenious method for data centre cooling that can reduce your energy usage is the strategic use of plants. A data centre in Frankfurt proved the efficiency of this method by covering its roof and exterior walls with plants as a means of maintaining a consistent internal temperature. Not only does this make a data centre more environmentally-friendly because of the reduced energy usage but the plants also produce oxygens, offering an additional environmentally benefit.

Technology giants like Google and Facebook have already begun to rethink how they cool their data centres, installing more eco-friendly solutions. Google’s Hamina data centre in Finland has been using seawater to cool its equipment while Facebook’s Lulea data centre in Sweden relies on a combination of water-cooling and cold external air to meet its cooling needs.

Not to be outdone, in June 2018 Microsoft announced that it had designed and successfully installed an underwater data centre. Currently sitting on the seabed near the Scottish Orkney Islands, the self-sufficient data centre is not only proving to be environmentally sustainable, but it is also delivering exceptionally fast cloud services to nearby coastal cities.

4. Reuse and Recycle

When it comes to reusing and recycling, take another note from Google, a company that has been recycling and repurposing its data centre equipment since 2007, drastically minimising the environmental impact of its old equipment. Since the start of the programme, it has managed to upcycle and repurpose enough equipment to avoid purchasing over 300,000 new machines. Anything that cannot be recycled or repurposed by Google itself is given new life by being resold.

Other data centres are turning what is often seen as a waste product – heat – and monetising by selling to cities in the form of heating and hot water, proving that there are multiple aspects of data centres which can be repurposed.

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