Data centers are known for consuming a lot of energy to maintain computer systems, servers and other high-performance IT components. For enterprises and governments, data centers are very crucial. Without them, critical IT operations would not run at the scale large enough to sustain the global infrastructure.
As business operations continue to grow rapidly, the amount of data generated is pushing the demand for more data centers, causing energy requirements to rise. Large IT corporations like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon are sometimes at the center of criticism for having huge server farms putting pressure on the local power grids. But, these global IT companies have realized the importance of reducing power consumption and have been consistently making their data centers more energy efficient, not just to reduce the environmental impact but also to save their operational costs.
Natural gas to power data centers?
Conventional data centers use the electric grid system, under which electricity is transmitted from power generation units through transmissions lines and is converted to the appropriate voltage for its usage. But, this method can cause a loss of energy during transmission. To avoid that, Microsoft announced in the end of September, 2017 that they are going to build the world's first data center that runs on natural gas. Known as The Advanced Energy Lab, racks of this data center will be directly connected to the gas pipelines and powered with the help of integrated fuel cells instead of using electricity from the conventional coal power grid. According to Microsoft, this method could almost double the energy efficiency of datacenters, in addition to reducing costs and improving reliability.
IT companies looking toward renewable energy
For CIOs, power usage and maintenance expenditure of data centers is progressively turning out to be a vital challenge and so they have been exploring alternate sources of energy for innovative power-saving tactics. For instance, Facebook has just recently announced they are constructing a massive 970,000 square-foot data center in Virginia, US costing $ 75 million, that would run solely on solar energy. Facebook says it is actively pursuing renewable energy options in the other regions where they operate data centers and is aiming to have at least 50 percent clean and renewable energy in its energy mix in the year 2018.
Similarly, other tech giants like Amazon and Google have also been making their data centers more sustainable and cost-effective by giving up on coal-based power grid systems and relying on renewable energy systems. Google says that it is commited to power all its data centers and offices across the globe with 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2017. According to Google, it has invested 2.5 billion USD in renewable energy projects and uses technologies like machine learning to make its operations more energy efficient and sustainable. On similar ground, Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing giant, has announced to build an energy efficient data center worth 1 billion USD, that would function entirely on renewable energy sources.
Energy wastage by small and medium data centers
There are other ways also through which data centers can be made more energy efficient—such as using virtualization, managing the airflow systems, using artificial intelligence, IoT sensors, data center micro grids and raising temperatures within the recommended range to save energy, which large businesses have been deploying. But, it is also the small and medium-sized enterprises data centers which share the same issue. Research by The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an international non-profit organization, estimates that in many small office-based organizations with on-premise data centers, as much as 30 percent of their total electricity use may be directed towards powering and cooling servers, running 24 hours a day even though performing little or no work.