Data centers have become a vital part of the IT landscape, but traditionally, they have not been the most environmentally friendly enterprises. There is no avoiding the fact data centers consume massive amounts of energy. The electricity required to operate servers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as cooling requirements and the basic utilities necessary to operate the center,all add up to a high consumption operation.
Some large data centers, such as those operating online behemoths Google and Facebook, have been criticized by environmental advocates for their massive carbon footprints. Spurred on by the criticisms, these companies have begun taking steps toward building more environmentally friendly data centers and reducing the amount of resources necessary for their operations. In fact, their renewed commitment to reducing their carbon footprints has spurred other smaller enterprises, including private cloud colocation centers to improve their environmental impacts and make major changes.
Reducing Energy Usage
Because data centers use so much energy, reducing energy consumption is a top priority, both for environmental and cost-containment reasons. Some of the largest data centers are turning to renewable energy sources, including wind and solar energy. Facebook made headlines in 2013 when it announced it would be building a new data center near Des Moines, Iowa to take advantage of the abundant wind power available in the area.
Smaller companies are also turning to renewable resources as well as finding ways to reduce the overall amount of power they use. For example, relying on Energy Star–rated power sources and choosing equipment meeting low-energy use standards is reducing the amount of power necessary to operate the centers. Some experts are even calling for an industry-wide standard in which at least 80 percent of the equipment in the center is high-efficiency or Energy Star–rated.
Because precision heating and cooling is such an important part of a colocation facility, a great deal of attention goes to managing the temperature as efficiently as possible. Some facilities are using special roofing materials, for example, to deflect sunshine and heat from the building, thereby reducing the need for cooling. Other centers are finding ways to more effectively manage the temperature indoors by reusing the energy created by equipment. One idea gaining traction is redirecting the heat created by servers into other areas of the building. Green systems redirect the heat and reduce the need for gas or electric heating in parts of the building, such as employee offices.
Green From the Ground Up
While some colocation and data centers are attempting to make changes and adjustments to their existing facilities, newer centers are placing a greater priority on being environmentally friendly from the beginning of construction. Companies are doing everything they can to reduce the amount of energy they use, from green building materials to installing efficient LED lighting that reduces energy consumption by up to 90 percent over traditional lights.
Reduced energy consumption is not only good for the environment it also represents cost savings for businesses. One of the major benefits of businesses opting for colocation is a reduction in overall power costs. Using a shared data center eliminates the burden of the costs of maintaining a dedicated server room, while also adding the benefits of managed services and additional security. A colocation center represents a consolidation of resources. By some accounts, moving to a more energy-efficient arrangement has the potential to reduce energy costs by up to 25 percent over several years, representing a significant savings.
Another reason companies are committing to reducing their carbon footprint when it comes to data storage and processing is that many state and local governments are offering tax rebates and incentives to companies that demonstrate a commitment to reducing their energy consumption and other environmentally friendly practices. Experts also point out companies that “go green” also receive substantial public relations value. Some consumers seek out companies with a demonstrated commitment to the environment.
There are plenty of reasons companies of all sizes should consider moving their IT functions to a colocation environment, and the reducing their carbon footprint is just one of them. From reduced operational costs to access to state-of-the-art security and knowledgeable IT staff, it only makes sense to colocate.