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Increasing Data Demands Set to Cause an Environmental Crisis

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Data centers are truly modern marvels. These warehouses full of servers are responsible for harboring most of the Internet, and these facilities are popping up all over the place. As great as data centers are, according to a new study by the National Resources Defense Council, the increasing demand for data doesn’t bode well for the environment.

Our Society’s Insatiable Appetite for More Data
The expansion of new data centers is happening due to the need to retain and make available data being created by the world’s population at an exponential rate. For example, 90 percent of the world’s data was created in 2013 alone. Add to this the huge data-creating trend on the horizon known as The Internet of Things (IoT), and you’re looking a pretty secure future for data center owners.

Data Centers Will Drain the Grid
Herein lies the problem. All of these new data centers will require a significant amount of electricity to operate. InfoWorld explains just how much energy we’re going to need:

U.S. data centers are using more electricity than they need. It takes 34 power plants, each capable of generating 500 megawatts of electricity, to power all of the data centers in operation today. By 2020, the nation will need another 17 similarly-sized power plants to meet projected data center energy demands as economic activity becomes increasingly digital.

The NRDC report puts this forecast in terms of kilowatt-hours: “Nationwide, data centers in total used 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical energy in 2013, and they will be using 139 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020 — a 53 percent increase.”

As all of you Planeteers know, most of the electricity that we consume isn’t green. A lot of our electricity comes from fossil fuels, resulting in millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions being pumped into the atmosphere. We would like to think that the world will be running off of sustainable and clean energy by 2020. However, seeing that the demand of electricity will only increase, and that the development of green technology is taking its sweet time to make a significant impact, we’re not overly optimistic that 2020 will be an environmental utopia.

Although, it’s not all doom and gloom from the NRDC. The report goes on to claim that the current data center energy consumption problem can be reduced by as much as 40 percent if data centers took control of their wasted electricity.

Problems hindering efficiency include “comatose” servers, also known as ghost servers, which use power but don’t run any workloads; over provisioned IT resources; lack of virtualization; and procurement models that don’t address energy efficiency. The typical computer server operates at no more than 12 percent to 18 percent of capacity, and as many as 30 percent of servers are comatose.

The NRDC puts total savings from wasted data center energy at $3.8 billion.

How Can You Make a Difference?
You may not oversee a data center, but there are still actions that your business can take to help alleviate this environmental crisis. For starters, you can make sure that the cloud computing company your business uses is doing everything they can to minimize waste. Before putting your company’s data in the cloud, be sure to ask your potential cloud service provider what steps they’ve taken to go green, and if they’re aware of the environmental issues raised in the NRDC report.

You can also look at the energy consumption habits of your company’s IT infrastructure (which is like a mini data center). If you’ve not been deliberate about setting up a green IT network, then you may be surprised at just how much energy your business is wasting.

How Tektonic Can Make a Difference
Tektonic can audit your network and make recommendations to help you go green. For example, we can implement an energy-saving solution like server virtualization. This is a process where we consolidate and eliminate older and underutilized servers with newer and more energy-efficient units. Many of our clients that have undergone server virtualization have seen consolidation rates of 4:1!

If every data center around the world took advantage of green solutions like server virtualization, then this impending environmental crisis would be prevented. Saving the environment starts with you. Call Tektonic at (416) 256-9928 to learn more about green solutions available for your business!

Date: September 12th, 2014, Author: Jorge Rojas

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