We can do this!
All it takes to make Data Centres more efficient is a change in attitude!
“Tis the season to be jolly” so let’s banish the midwinter gloom and look on the brightside! Yes, Climate Change is a disaster; yes, we face an existential threat to our civilisation unless we fundamentally change the attitudes that are driving the unsustainable growth of carbon emissions, but something has changed that makes me feel positive that we can do this and avert global disaster.
I think there has been a fundamental change in the UK to our attitude to Climate Change. Why do I think this? It was a very small incident at work that made me reassess how others were starting to see the problems facing our planet. When a member of our team, a vintage car enthusiast and probably the biggest “petrol head “ in our company, came running up to me in the office and excitedly asked me to accompany him to the warehouse, the last thing I was expecting was a lesson in ecology. This team member opened up a box of patch cables and enthusiastically told me that by removing the individual plastic bags and using sustainable paper wrappers the manufacturer (Excel) expected to save 20 tonnes of plastic and a lot of CO2 emissions. OK, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what is required but it was the change in attitude that gave me hope that we can do this. Whether it was UK Flooding, Australian Bush Fires, Greta Thunberg, Children’s strikes, Extinction Rebellion, David Attenborough or some other epiphany, something had changed this individual’s attitude. And that is all it takes to make a change, however fundamental!
Data Centres are a much larger contributor to CO2 emissions than Excel’s plastic packaging. A 2017 Huawei report forecasts that Data Centres will emit 3.2% of all man made CO2 by 2020 and 14% by 2040 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320225452_Total_Consumer_Power_Consumption_Forecast but the technology and expertise exists to make huge energy and CO2 savings, now! What is lacking is the will!
At AIT we frequently engage with big enterprises who tell us that the savings we are presenting are too small to be taken seriously. A 10 or 15% energy saving in a Data Centre isn’t considered enough to be worth the perceived risk of change! In other cases the Data Centre manager isn’t incentivised to make savings on energy and the Finance Director, not understanding the technology required, can’t make the decision, so they do nothing.
The problem we face is “big” but the solution lies in making many small and some big changes. So please, if you are in a position to make a small change, make it! Change the way Data Centre Mangers are incentivised to include cutting energy costs and CO2. Question those who claim change increases risk. Give energy managers real power to make changes and structure facilities and IT teams so they operate on the big picture and serve the business. Change the attitude to risk by making everyone accountable and responsible for energy use, not just for resilience. Make it happen – do the right thing set point by set point, blanking panel by blanking panel, variable fan by variable fan, and free cooling unit by free cooling unit. With small, low cost, low risk changes we can do this!