Industry View on Sustainable Data Centres

Attending Data Centres North in Manchester on 1st May was a great opportunity to listen in on the issues currently facing the industry. The rise of edge computing, the viability of the North as a data centre hub, and how to increase energy efficiency were just some of the topics discussed. In amongst this, the theme of how to make data centres more sustainable recurred again and again. It was wonderful to hear that this thinking is at the heart of how the industry hopes to move forward.   

Industry survey on sustainable data centres

British Computer Society, the Chartered Institute for IT, had a stand at the event, where it invited ideas for a more sustainable data centre. Advice on buying refurbished kit was one of the suggestions made, with a comment that “recycling is important”. Obviously, we at Techbuyer were delighted by the sentiment. However, there were other issues raised that are just as important if not more so.  

Another response to the same survey suggested “increase utilisation”, which we believe in just as much. When organisations buy just what they need in terms of equipment and functionality, they are making the most out of their resources. Techbuyer’s sales teams and IT specialists work hard to help achieve this goal by configuring servers that fit precise need and by never selling functionality that is not required. What is surprising is that huge savings can be made to already functioning systems by applying the same principles.

EURECA research on making best use of resources

One of the talks in the Operational Stream Room shared lessons learned from evaluating 350 data centres in the public sector across Europe. The product of a three-year research project funded by EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, the study found that billions could be saved in the public sector by refreshing servers over five years old, increasing utilisation on the servers and being smart about IT upgrades.

With efficiency gains continuing at the rate they have, refreshing legacy hardware means that the money spent on newer models is made back in a short space of time with reduced energy consumption. More than that, two or three legacy servers can be replaced with one modern virtualised machine. This means that the footprint of the data centre is reduced, bringing further savings. As ever, it is a question of assessing the actual needs of the system and then designing a system to fit those needs exactly, which is something we support wholeheartedly.

What next for data centres?

Of course, assessing need becomes increasingly difficult as the landscape of data capture and usage constantly shifts around us. The keynote address by Professor Ian Bitterlin explored this in a fascinating way, by looking at how the rise of data downloaded through fibre cables, through 5G, wireless etc may well be flattening out in Europe but that this could be replaced with the data generated by an ever-growing number of connected devices like fridges and toasters, which make up the Internet of Things.

The reason for this is that the majority of data traffic is video, and there is a real-time limit to how much the population can watch. However, connected devices are on the rise and transmit an endless stream of small data packets. The massive amount of low level data will require local, small solutions to data storage that are the data equivalent of mobile phone towers. Microdata centres are already on the market – could we soon see them on every street corner? If so, sustainability issues are set to grow too. 

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