Data centers use comes at a cost to the environment. Data centers use an estimated 200 terawatt-hours each year, more than the annual energy consumption of some small countries. They also contribute to overall global and carbon emissions, with a predicted increase of 20% of global electricity demand by 2030. Essentially, data centers must implement environmental innovations to reduce the carbon footprint of data centers.
In 2008, a new global standard for energy efficiency was established, using a PUE or power usage effectiveness rating. Some of these standards are based on a PUE of 1.0, fresh-air cooling systems that cut back on carbon emissions and save costs, using renewable power whenever possible, using recycled materials in construction, and power savings of 91% compared to industry average data centers.
PUEs are widely accepted as the most accurate measure of data efficiency. A data center can calculate their PUE by dividing the power delivered to their facility by what they consumed with their equipment. In 2007, the average PUE per data center was about 2.5, and today it has gone down to 1.6. The target number that the industry is aiming to hit is 1.3, but there are only a handful of data centers that have gone below 1.2. Data centers can hit lower PUEs by making changes in their cooling technologies and continuing to research and implement environmental innovations.
Sustainability is possible for data centers if the rights steps are taken to address environmental considerations while designing and building data centers, and centers consider adapting and making updates over time. When data centers start construction, vendors can provide calculators with accurate numbers for power consumption goals. These numbers can estimate the total consumption for servers, storage, and all equipment in the centers. Vendors will also typically publish the equipment’s production footprint to help with their impact reporting.
Data centers can make minor changes to their designs to maximize efficiency and increase sustainability. But there are also non-functional requirements implemented during the design phase that impact sustainability. Things like scalability, reliability, availability, and manageability should all be considered in the design phase.