At SingleHop, we have always been environmentally conscious, as we like to do our part to decrease the carbon footprint left by data centers worldwide. A new report was recently presented at the Green Enterprise Computing Symposium by McKinsey and Co. using data from the Uptime Institute. The data that this report presents is a bit unnerving, however there are fairly simple solutions to combat the rising emissions of Data Centers.
There are many concerns involved in reducing emissions from data centers worldwide, though there are solutions to be implemented. Currently, a comparison of CO2 emissions as a percentage of total emissions is as follows:
Data Centers: .3%
Steel Plants: 1%
Although these percentages seem small, there are, of course, many industries with high emissions, the focus on data centers is due to the fact that they are rapidly expanding and will soon eclipse the airline industry in terms of emissions. They are a vital component of a networked global economy, so much so that it is now expected that emissions from data centers will quadruple by the year 2020. It is projected that there will be, by the year 2010, 41-43 million servers in operation. Also, 90% percent of companies/public sector data centers will need to build more power and cooling in the next 30 months due to expansion. This may seem unbelievable, but the green house gases emitted from data centers already exceeds that of Argentina as a whole.
There are several suggestions now regarding how to combat a hugely and possibly damaging rise in emissions in data centers for the future. In the US, there is now discussion of implementing unified standards for data centers modeled after the CAFE standard for the automotive industry, in essence a miles per gallon for data centers. The EPA is also required to now submit a yearly report to Congress regarding this issue. The EU is also beginning to look into new strategies that target data center emissions by developing a code of conduct describing energy efficiency best practices.
However, as data centers become a global fact, absolute solutions become less clear. Although, in terms of principle alone, companies and governments should do all they can to reduce emissions, these solutions can, in the beginning, be costly. Redesigning and reconstructing a data center for greater efficiency isn’t a small task or a cheap one. Putting more emphasis on lowering the costs of newer, more energy efficient servers would make this technology more easily available not only to established companies, but to startups and smaller businesses. Also, a global initiative to strengthen environmental standards for the tech community would greatly help reducing emissions and fight the disparities between different countries and their various environmental policies. Whether this is done by governments themselves or through economic forums, like Davos, the impact could be significant.