Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

Digitalizing-green-Building-a-sustainable-IT-infrastructure-with-data-centers

As the global business community adjusts its understanding of ownership and responsibility around climate change, data center operators are innovating to ensure continued progress on environmental sustainability. Data centers today focus on more than just space, time, and availability, they are also about efficiency, innovation, and reliability for all stakeholders, from customers to investors to employees to communities. Now, more than ever, businesses are investing in greening their supply chains and acquiring digital infrastructure and services from sustainable suppliers who can assist them in meeting their own sustainability targets. Enterprises are putting data center sustainability in the front and center of their strategies in 2021, raising the bar for the entire industry.

The fight against climate change has never been more pivotal. As a result of worldwide lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, global emissions fell in 2020. However, recent trends indicate that as the  the world reopens, emissions are  likely to  increase. Efforts are being made by governments to address climate change. Despite the pandemic, investors continue to show an interest in climate change as a means of creating long-term value, in line of  their greater understanding of environment, social and governance (ESG) needs.

Powering a Sustainable Digital World

A sustainable future requires true collaboration. Today, businesses are increasingly looking for partners that can demonstrate sustainable operations and “green” their own supply chains. A greater number of businesses are requiring proof of environmental initiatives, metrics, and certifications as part of their buying process.

The equation that more IT services equal more power consumption has been disrupted by technologies such as virtualization and highly efficient infrastructure. As a result, compute loads have grown rapidly to support digital transformation in an energy-efficient manner. For example, at Equinix, our portfolio of IBX data centers has doubled since 2015 and our overall efficiency has improved by 7% even as the portfolio remains a mix of old and new sites. Clearly, the industry’s focus on efficiency is producing positive results, but there is still much work to be done to ensure continued improvement.

There is a need for data centers to focus more on reducing greenhouse gas emissions inside and outside their walls.  Sustainable development requires more than efficient energy use; it also calls for using cleaner energy sources and reducing embedded carbon throughout the value chain, such as in building materials and waste. In the long run, the industry has the opportunity to become more integrated and impactful, creating sustainable communities.

 Greener buildings, cleaner energy, smarter use of energy

 According to an IDC report “Datacenters and Sustainability Goals”, 89% of organizations say they prefer to do business with a partner that shares similar sustainability goals. The future of data center management will require modernized facilities that can support more power-dense systems, the use of greener critical infrastructure technologies, the implementation of best practices in monitoring and management, and the use of artificial intelligence to optimize the data center environment.

Current trends in green data centers are driven by the large shift toward cloud-based solutions and the expansion of data centers worldwide. Companies are moving towards green data centers that utilize renewable energy. Using renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, solar, geothermal, etc., can lead to greener data centers.

Data centers need to be Green by Design from the ground up and not be an after-thought improvement or enhancement when the construction is done – incorporating green landscaping and natural water features (such as underground water sources) into the architecture will help increase efficiency, recycle wastage and reduce the cost to maintain.

Building Green Data Centers in India

In order to reduce carbon footprint, many top Indian companies are making the most of the green data center trend. As the world’s fifth-largest energy market, India is already making headway towards expanding its alternative energy sources like wind and solar as it runs the world’s largest clean energy program to reach an installed renewable energy capacity of 175 GW by 2022. Furthermore, solar energy now accounts for 10.7% of the country’s installed power capacity. Using this existing infrastructure and expertise, India offers a great opportunity for building green data centers to support the digital drive and green agenda of the country.

Many of India’s top companies are considering green data centers as a means of reducing their carbon footprint. IT & telecom companies are likely to adopt green data center solutions in the near future. The main influence will be the growing digitalization among enterprises for their front end and back-end processes, as well as increasing adoption of digital methods for everyday activities by consumers, such as shopping and payments.

Accelerating Sustainability Progress

Carbon neutral data center services require a holistic commitment to reducing carbon across all areas of the data center value chain. Data center providers can support expansion to the edge while ensuring efficient operations by incorporating advanced technologies, such as AI-driven climate control, liquid cooling, or fuel cells. Companies that are already measuring, reporting and developing strategies will be well positioned to lead the sector into the next generation of global innovation and leadership.

Data centers should also keep themselves accountable towards science-based targets so that progress is measured as judiciously as possible. A major milestone for Equinix this year is our commitment to becoming climate neutral by setting science-based targets for emissions reduction across not just our global operations, but also throughout our supply chains by 2030. Aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, this commitment is a critical step to ensure that we continue to advance investments and innovations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As part of our science-based target, Equinix is aiming to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions (direct and indirect from electricity) by 50% by 2030 against a 2019 baseline.

There is still some way to go, but many digital leaders today are increasingly seeing sustainability as an important element of their IT infrastructure strategies — a trend we expect to continue as climate change concerns return to the fore post-COVID-19.

-Manoj Paul, Managing Director, Equinix India

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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