Data centre industry makes strides towards sustainable future

Data centre industry makes strides towards sustainable future

The data centre industry is responsible for more greenhouse gases than commercial flights and so the pressure is on for them to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Here we take a look at two examples of how leaders in the data centre space are making big progress when it comes to achieving their sustainability targets. 

A data centre in Swindon, Carbon-Z, has become one of the first in the UK to be fully carbon neutral, following an overhaul of its site and work practices. This includes the submersion of all hardware components in cooling liquid and sourcing electricity from green energy providers. Plans are also in place for installing solar panels on the site’s roof.

The site was previously known as SilverEdge and is rebranding itself to reflect the change of direction in how it operates and the services it provides to clients. It now hopes to inspire a wider shift towards sustainability within the data centre industry, which accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions annually than commercial flights.

Jon Clark, Commercial and Operations Director at Carbon-Z, commented on the company’s new direction: “As the United Kingdom and the world move towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, our industry is responsible for making data centres greener and more efficient. At Carbon-Z, we continually look for new ways to improve our sustainability with the goal being to get our data centres to carbon neutral, then carbon zero and then carbon negative. We believe this is possible and hope to see a wider movement among our peers in the same direction over the coming years.”

Playing it cool

The growing intensity of computing power as well as high performance demands has resulted in rapidly rising temperatures within data centres and a negative cycle of energy usage. More computing means more power, more power means more heat, more heat demands more cooling, and traditional air-cooling systems consume massive amounts of power which in turns contributes to the heating up of sites.

To get around this, Carbon-Z site operates using liquid immersion cooling, a revolutionary technology which involves the submersion of hardware components in dielectric liquid which does not conduct electricity and conveys heat away from the heat source. This greatly reduces the need for cooling infrastructure and costs less than traditional air cooling. The smaller amount of energy that is now needed to power the Swindon site can now be sourced through Carbon-Z’s Green Energy Sourcing. 

While its clear benefits mean that immersion cooling is quickly catching on, it is predicted to grow from US$243 million this year to US$700 million by 2026, the great majority of the UK’s more than 600 data centres are not making use of it and continue to operate in a way which is highly energy intensive and carbon emitting.

Riding the wave

As part of its rebrand, Carbon-Z has also updated the kinds of services it offers to customers to make sure that they are financially as well as environmentally sustainable. Its new service, Ocean Cloud, has been designed with this in mind, providing customers dedicated servers and a flat-fee approach to financing.

Having a dedicated server within a data centre means that spikes in demand from other tenants has no effect at all on yours, avoiding the ‘noisy neighbour’ problem associated with the multi-tenant model favoured by many large operators. This makes the performance of the server more reliable and energy efficient.

Ocean Cloud also solves one of the other major problems with other cloud services, overspend, through its flat-fee approach. Customers are charged a fixed fee that covers the dedicated server and associated storage, as well as hosting and remote support of the hardware infrastructure to reduce maintenance overheads.

“We are very proud of Ocean Cloud, as it allows us to offer clients a service that is not only better for the ocean, the planet and for our local communities than other hosted services, but also brings clear operational and cost-related benefits,” said Clark. “Striking this balance is crucial to ensure customers are on board with the transition to more sustainable data centre operations, especially at times like these when many companies are feeling the financial pinch off the back of rising inflation.”

Another success story amongst data centre providers is Colt Group, comprising Colt Technology Services and Services. The organisation recently announced it has been awarded a Platinum rating from EcoVadis, a world-leading sustainability ratings provider, for its environment, social and governance (ESG) performance. The highest-possible rating builds on Colt’s achievement of Gold status less than 12 months ago and recognises its deep commitment to policies, action and results around sustainability.

EcoVadis partners with more than 100,000 companies from over 200 industries across 175 countries to deliver the world’s most credible, trusted sustainability ratings. The latest ranking positions Colt in the 98th percentile with a score of 75 out of 100, taking into account ratings for action and commitment in four key categories: environment, labour and human rights, ethics and sustainable procurement. 

Keri Gilder, CEO, Colt Technology Services, said: “We’re incredibly excited to join the top 1% of EcoVadis partners awarded platinum status. It’s a fantastic endorsement of the work we’re doing to drive meaningful, long-lasting change for our people and our planet. Colt is a company that cares deeply and while we are still on our ESG journey, we’re thrilled to have reached this important milestone.”

Kelsey Hopkinson, ESG Director, Colt Technology Services, said: “ESG is our North Star – it guides everything we do, so we’re delighted to be awarded the very best rating from EcoVadis. We want to make the world a better place and we’ll continue to strive for an inclusive, more sustainable shared future that is fairer for us all.” 

Colt’s firm commitment to ESG spans its business. Its ESG report, published in June, details science-based targets and the measures it is taking to deliver a positive impact on environmental sustainability. These include its journey to net zero, its reduction in emissions, its focus on renewables and its pledge to the Circular Economy. Underpinning this is Colt’s drive to create an equitable workplace where everyone can thrive.

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