Tech majors bat for green data centers

Tech majors Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Google pledge to use clean energy to power their green data centers

by | Oct 10, 2016 | Industry

There is little doubt about the huge data center boom in the world, particularly in the Asia Pacific. Companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Google are spending billions to build green data centers. While Google set up its first data centers in Singapore and Taiwan, Amazon Web Services (AMS) built data centers in Singapore and Tokyo (Japan). A data center is basically a facility used to house servers, storage devices, cables, and Internet connection. Large data centers are industrial-scale facilities that use electricity equivalent to a small town. According to a study by the US Department of Energy, data centers in the country consume around 2 percent of the total power produced. The facilities used around 70 billion kilowatt hours in 2014, according to the study conducted in collaboration with Stanford, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon universities. Moreover, a large amount of water is used to cool data centers.

What exactly are green data centers?

A green data center is one in which mechanical, electrical and computer systems are designed for maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact. Several strategies can be used to reduce carbon footprint such as minimizing the footprint of buildings, use of low-emission building materials, waste and water recycling, and use of alternative energy technologies such as evaporative cooling, photovoltaics, heat pumps, etc. In an effort to improve their environmental credentials and lower costs of operation, many companies are already working towards reducing electricity and water usage at their data centers. Apart from making fundamental changes in the design of data centers to reduce energy demand, companies are installing energy-efficient equipment and water-saving cooling devices.

Building a green data center may be expensive initially, but the long-term savings on power, operations and maintenance can be realized later. Companies can actually improve upon their bottom lines if they go for green technologies. Moreover, such green centers provide employees a healthy work environment. Additionally, green data centers enhance relations with local communities and environmentalists. The concept of green data center is about businesses being environmentally responsible, something that is gaining traction throughout the corporate world.

“Right now the data center industry is a carbon debit one. It will have to move towards being a carbon credit one. I think that green data centers are definitely a growth area and it is finding support. For example, there is a strong push by the Singapore government towards green technologies, particularly IT. In fact, energy efficiency retrofitting can also be used for significant cost reduction, which can help improve the bottom line as well,” said Shashank Dixit, CEO, Deskera, a global leader in Cloud-based business software.

What are the reasons for the spurt in data centers

There is tremendous proliferation of cheap smartphones and tablets, along with the ever-expanding reach of the Internet and innovations in Cloud technology and data center domain. Addition of millions of Internet users every month and good economic growth translate directly into greater data demand. Naturally, service providers, particularly the Cloud industry, want to improve services and reaction times, consequently leading to the sudden spike in data centers. Moreover, as software companies move from premise-based technology to Cloud-based technology and leave behind traditional resources, such as direct server and software license purchases, they increasingly need to set up fast-paced and reliable infrastructure; establishing state-of-the-art data centers will be one step to achieve that objective and support a company’s expansion plans.

“Cloud-first strategies are the foundation for staying relevant in a fast-paced world,” said Ed Anderson, research vice president at Gartner. “The market for Cloud services has grown to such an extent that it is now a notable percentage of total IT spending, helping to create a new generation of start-ups and ‘born in the Cloud’ providers.”Apart from Cloud services replacing or complementing existing IT systems, new applications and services are being created to run exclusively in the Cloud.

Huge increase in data centers predicted for future

While the US study has predicted a 4 percent growth till 2020, the Chinese government has estimated that the country’s data centers would utilize more electricity than Hungary and Greece put together. Moreover, according to international IT research firm Gartner, globally the IT sector will spend more than $1 trillion due to shift to Cloud computing over the next 5 years. According to the report, IT will spend $111 billion on Cloud services this year, which will grow to $216 billion by the year 2020. This spending will be incurred among other things on setting up resilient infrastructure, including establishing data centers, to support expansion. In such a scenario, setting up green data centers would help in the creation and maintenance of ecologically responsible technologies.

In conclusion

Countries such as the USA, Mexico, and Canada have pledged that 50% of their electricity generation would come from clean, that is non-carbon dioxide-producing sources by 2025. In order to realize such goals, the corporate world will have to come forward and do their bit. Companies such as Facebook, Apple, Google, eBay, and Microsoft have already pledged to move their new data centers toward all-green operations. More international and big business houses are coming forward to shoulder their corporate, social and ecological responsibility and towards the goal of sustainable development.

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