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How to make data centres more sustainable

Sustainable data centres

By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created each second for every human being on the planet. To give that some context, one megabyte of data equates roughly to about six seconds of uncompressed CD audio.

 

Vast quantities of data cannot simply be stored on company computers, this information should be held securely in powerful, large-scale data centres. For procurement, that means sourcing the right data centre to match the needs of the business, but, like anything, it isn’t always that simple.

 

The scale and powerful nature of these centres mean they are energy hungry. The average data centre is said to consume more than 100 times the power of a large commercial office building, while a large data centre uses the same amount of electricity as a small town.

 

That brings with it serious environmental concerns for any buyer who has to consider the wider implications of their purchasing decisions.

 

Here are three tips to help make your sourcing of data centres more sustainable.

 

Share expertise

Work with your data centre provider to benchmark information about how much energy the centre uses and find ways to bring that down. Although some are powered and cooled using energy from renewable sources, buyers should consider sharing the organisation’s expertise in using sustainable technology to power offices or factories with data centre suppliers.

 

Think about location

Data centres are increasingly being located in countries such as Norway or Iceland. There, the colder climate helps cool the servers, negating the need for air-conditioning systems. While it may not always be practical to source such a service from these countries, tests are being conducted by some businesses to see if it possible to submerge a centre in the Pacific Ocean or host data underground in an abandoned mine.

 

Consider risk

Whether powered by the main grid or by renewable sources, data centres are vulnerable to power outages. Storms are usually the culprit but it could also simply be down to a lack of investment in infrastructure. Either way, backup power is usually drawn from diesel-powered generators. Procurement functions should use their experience of mitigating risk to work with their suppliers to install more sustainable backups powered either by fast-advancing battery technology or, at the very least, biodiesel.

 

As sustainability continues to be a priority for procurement teams and the volume and breadth of data that the function is tapping into increases, it is important to include data centres in the function’s corporate social responsibility practices.

 

Find out more about data centres:

Webinar: Category Focus: Data centres

Category report: Data centres

 

This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.

Sophie Dyer
Posted by Sophie Dyer

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