by Nathan Knight, General Manager ANZ, Data Center Group, Lenovo

With CIOs in 11 out of 15 main industries placing digital transformation in their top three business priorities in 2018, more organisations are embarking on their digital transformation journeys than ever before. Data centres will be at the core of this transformation as they anchor and power the digital landscape. Better processing speeds will be required to keep pace with emerging technologies, which only means more energy and increasing IT infrastructure to keep data centres running.

Storing, shifting, processing, and analysing data all require energy, but just how much?

Currently, over 100 Australian-based data centres are accounting for almost four per cent of the country’s total energy consumption.

On a global scale, data centres currently account for ten per cent of the world’s energy consumption, and this is expected to double by 2025.

This glaring comparison requires us to re-evaluate the long-term environmental impact of data centres – especially in incorporating greener designs and relooking IT ownership models.

Smarter designs with greener results

Heat is a major issue when operating data centres, as higher temperatures mean that processors consume more energy and result in higher operating costs.

Instead of spending more to upgrade older, less energy-efficient data centre infrastructures to render them less expensive to maintain, there are other ways to make data centres eco-friendlier – such as minimising heat generated from processors quickly and efficiently.

Traditionally, data centres utilised standard air-based systems without fans or water chillers to cool down processors.

Recent developments in water cooling technologies utilise warm (up to 45°C) water for cooling instead of air, which allows the system to run 20°C cooler, and in turn, yields energy savings of up to 40 per cent.

Using water as a coolant, while not new, is still the most efficient manner of keeping temperatures low as water is the best conduit for heat removal.

Further innovations in water cooling for data centres also mean that alternative cooling solutions such as oil or processed and specialised pure water can be piped directly into the CPU, memory and other high power consuming components for ergonomic cooling.

This process doesn’t require chillers nor does it compromise on compute power. Other green design aspects towards water cooling include optimising design such that the flow of the water used in cooling helps to transport excess heat away from the central components.

Besides utilising renewable solutions, introducing forward-thinking designs such as incorporating recycled materials and using artificial intelligence (AI) software to automate cooling and activate it only when necessary can help in reducing carbon footprint.

Such designs support zero-emission goals by implementing better methods to store their data and save costs – allowing organisations to focus on creating unique strategies in their field of expertise.

With this positive cycle, the trend of increasing data centre reliance can actually speed up our gear towards a renewably powered economy.

Taking a stake in the subscription economy

The subscription economy model is inherently green – instead of purchasing a service or product that may never be fully utilised, companies need only rent what they require from providers and pay-as-they-use.

Against the backdrop of the need for agility in digital transformation, businesses need data centre infrastructure that enables growth instead of restricting it, to equip them with the ability to integrate new technologies and workloads efficiently and seamlessly.

By embracing a consumption-based, subscription model, businesses never take capital ownership of hardware or other IT assets, and only pay for what they use each month as part of their operating expenses – and scale in line with their business needs.

When more businesses start to adopt a ‘pay-for-what-you-use’ data centre model, we’ll see them owning less and borrowing more – and this spells good news from a cost and energy consumption perspective.

Now, an organisation can avoid over-provisioning to consume and scale according to business needs, and ultimately prevent wastage of resources.

As we continue implementing technology to progress our planet, we need to be mindful of the impact of our present and future actions – ensuring that they are not creating a new problem for it.

Total transformation must come from collective and collaborative strategies that consumers and businesses alike look to adopt, as progressing our planet doesn’t have to mean sacrificing it.

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