Storage simplification and cutting data centre emissions

By Gareth Beanland
Gareth Beanland, the UK & Ireland Country Manager at Infinidat, shared his insights into actionable, seamless sustainability solutions for data centres

Acting responsibly and minimising carbon footprints are now key goals for companies in every single industry sector. Driven by consumer demand, finding ways to reduce waste, and thinking more sustainably are at the top of boardroom agendas. 

Consumer attitudes are behind these shifts. A recent Deloitte survey found that 98% of consumers believe brands have a responsibility to make the world a better place. Adopting clean energy and recycling is just as important as developing a sustainable enterprise IT strategy.  

Future-proofing the sector, by addressing data centre energy consumption 

When considering IT’s carbon footprint, one naturally thinks of the data centre, of its energy consumption and the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions. Data centres are undoubtedly huge consumers of power, and are predicted to use 20% of the world's electricity by 2025, more than any other sector. A large data centre may consume over 30GWh of power in a year, costing its operator around £3,000,000 for electricity alone.

Data centres utilise power in two ways: they need power to run the IT equipment that they house (i.e. the servers which execute the digital transactions we rely on) and, because servers emit heat when they are working, they need power to keep the servers cool enough to function reliably.  

Rising energy demands, further increased by the IoT, AI and advanced analytics

Although they use a lot of power, data centres support vital, service driven economies in the same way that heavy industries supported manufacturing economies – but a lot of energy intensive activity is taking place. Technology and digital capabilities, such as connected IoT (Internet of Things) sensors, AI and advanced analytics, and blockchain-enabled technologies may be transforming the way we live and do business, but it comes with the cost of significantly boosted energy demands.

Energy is usually the largest single element of operating costs for data centres, varying from 25-60%. The predominance of the data-driven economy has impacted every element of the worldwide business environment. That scale of transformation has not come without a cost. Each year, approximately 8 million data centres worldwide consume vast volumes of electricity and generate carbon emissions that dwarf the global airline industry. In the UK, the total power demand of the UK data centre sector is between 2-3TWh per year.

CIOs therefore need to achieve a careful balancing act between having the necessary processing capability available in their data centres to utilise these technologies and minimising the environmental impact of energy consumption. 

Reducing energy consumption through data centre storage technologies

Servers actually emit heat even when they are idle, which means that they are on but not doing anything much. This is the power consumed by what we call “recognisable facilities” by which we mean data centres and does not include power consumed by server rooms and cupboards and other forms of distributed computing.

The logic of ‘carbon proxies’ provides a straightforward way to gauge the impact of enterprise storage on carbon emissions plus their tracking and analysis. Since the majority of electricity consumed is not obtained from renewable sources, it can be a good carbon proxy for the fossil fuel used to generate it. Reducing electricity demand therefore reduces the carbon it is responsible for emitting.

One way to tackle this issue and reduce the amount of power consumed in the data centre is to dramatically simplify the data centre by consolidating the number of storage arrays in the data centre. Thanks to advancements in enterprise software-defined storage technology, there is no longer any need for 25 or 50 different older arrays each running one application or workload, when all of those applications and workloads can fit on just one or two modern enterprise storage platforms. 

An enterprise can replace 50 arrays with 2 arrays, whilst still getting all the capacity, performance, availability, and reliability needed. Data centre simplification through the strategic consolidation of storage systems saves on power and cooling expenditure, minimises operational manpower, shrinks the need for rack space and floor space, and substantially reduces your data centre storage CAPEX and OPEX. It’s also possible to consolidate storage whilst simultaneously improving real-world application and workload performance across a hybrid cloud and a container-native environment. This offers the additional benefits of greater cyber resilience and higher availability. 

As consumers become increasingly sensitive to the threat of climate change, CIOs will face increasing pressure to do whatever they can to offset carbon consumption. With an eye on the future, their organisations will also expect them to play an active role in minimising the environmental impact of their existing and new infrastructure and technology. Data centre simplification through the consolidation of the storage footprint is an obvious route to reducing the physical and carbon footprint in the data centre and something every CIO should be investigating.

About Gareth Beanland

Gareth Beanland is the UK & Ireland Country Manager at Infinidat, a global enterprise data and cloud solutions provider.

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