Sustainable Technology Businesses - Eaton Business School
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Sustainable Technology Businesses

Big data applications require huge data support infrastructure including massive volume of storage. These large computer warehouses that store voluminous data for further processing are referred to as data centres. For instance, to support seamless activity, Facebook had four data centres across the world (as of 2016) with new locations ready to come up. These data centers are sprawling campuses spread across vast area – larger than two Walmart stores itself (at almost 307,000 square feet in one case). Data centres have been increasingly used in a variety of applications such as healthcare, e-commerce, nuclear science, smart grids among others (Bilal, et al., 2014). These data centres that houses thousands of servers are pathways to exascale bytes of data traffic. It is important to keep in mind that these data centres work 24 x 365 days of the year and has therefore become one of the largest consumers of power. Simple but interesting statistics show how when one of us decide to watch a one-hour episode of television show, our carbon footprint is equivalent to that a of 100-meter car journey or that an individual e-mail contributes 1.2 kilograms of CO2 to the atmosphere every year (WSJ Business, 2016).  Therefore energy efficient strategies that will enable data centres to be operationally efficient as well as environmentally committed are important. Data centres and their green perspective thus become a marked example for sustainability for IT sector which is otherwise marred by an infamous statistic of being the consumer of 7% of global electricity supply.

How do data centres become green? Let us examine a few sustainable strategies followed by data centres:

  • Green locations – Companies with mighty data centres are now on the lookout for locations that have a natural advantage, for instance, the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, including their associated territories (Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Åland Islands) are a quick favourite. Low temperatures in these regions, being close to the Arctic Circle, are a natural predecessor for reduced power consumption and there lower emissions and costs (WSJ Business, 2016). Facebook’s data center located in Lulea in Sweden is dependent on the chilly Nordic climate to thwart any instance of overheating (GreenBiz, 2013).
  • Green energy – Use of on-site renewable energy to power data centers is yet another strategy. Intel’s use of green data centers in the US based on solar panels is a pivotal example in this case. In order to optimize energy usage, these data centres schedule their workloads according to the availability of renewable energies. Apart from solar energy, seawater and geothermal energy are also tapped as a part of green practices (Oró, et al., 2015). Apple data center in Maiden, N. C., USA , for instance, boasts of a LEED facility with a 100-acre, 20 megawatt solar array for power as well as chilled-water-energy-storage systems (GreenBiz, 2013).
  • Green processes – Google data centers are known for recycling 100 percent of its electronic equipment whenever it chooses to replace it(GreenBiz, 2013). There are other examples of data centers which requires no water and is dependent on passive heat rejection systems. Reusing the waste heat from various installations in the data center building is also considered a step in this direction.

It is interesting to note how the increased demand for data centres in the recent times and strong environmental focus are driving organizations to innovatively tackle sustainability. Technology is often regarded as a vital aid to reduce impact on climate and therefore, it is heartening to see how data centres which act as backbone of the world business, economy, communication and consumer services (Baccour, et al., 2017) act in a responsible and sustainable manner.

References

Baccour, et al., 2017. PTNet: An efficient and green data center network. Journal of Parallel Distributed Computing, Issue 107, pp. 3 – 18.

Bilal, et al., 2014. A taxonomy and survey on Green Data Center Networks. Future Generation Computer Systems, Volume 36, pp. 189 – 208.

GreenBiz, 2013. 12 green data centers worth emulating from Apple to Verne. [Online]
Available at: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/12-green-data-centers-worth-emulating-apple-verneorter, V., Garcia, A. & Salom, J., 2015.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy integration in data centres. Strategies and modelling review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Issue 42, pp. 429 – 445.

WSJ Business, 2016. How Green is Your Digital Footprint?. [Online]
Available at: http://partners.wsj.com/digiplex/green-digital-footprint

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