The Green Data Center: 5 Ways Carbon-Intelligent Computing Is the Future

green data center

Last Updated on August 2, 2022 by Josh Mahan

At this point, most people have heard of climate change and the steps that companies – both big and small – are taking to address this issue. As a whole, companies are looking to become carbon-neutral – that is, the work they do and the services they provide won’t contribute more carbon to our atmosphere. As you might imagine, data centers require a substantial amount of energy. To keep these servers on 24/7, serving content for the entire world to consume, requires a significant amount of electricity. That’s why the leading cloud providers are looking at the concept of a green data center – or a data center that gets its energy from renewable, carbon-free sources.

Here are five reasons why carbon-intelligent computing is a good thing for businesses, why it’s here to stay, and why you should take advantage of these fantastic enhancements for your business.

Related: Data Center Planning and Implementation

1) The Green Data Center Will Make the Biggest Impact on Electricity Usage

According to Swedish researcher Anders Andrae, data centers will be the most significant power consumers of anything in communications technology. They’ll consume more power than cell phones, networks, and TV.

That figure is likely only to get bigger. As cell phones become more power efficient and TVs utilize new technologies to reduce the power draw, data centers will probably require more. Before, you may have had a few standard servers, but now you have GPUs, machine learning computers, and even quantum computers, all within the same data center.

Additionally, more and more enterprises are putting their entire workflows on the cloud. Seldom are people running things on-site. Office software, video conferencing solutions, and more are all cloud-based now.

Therefore, to make the most significant impact on electricity usage and reduce technology’s carbon footprint, data centers need to use renewable energy sources. As more companies look to reduce their footprint and hit aggressive carbon milestones, leveraging clean energy at the data center level will look more attractive. 

Related: Sustainable Cabling

2) Clean Energy Is Often More Cost-Efficient Now

It used to be the case that clean energy was expensive and challenging for governments and private industries. That has changed significantly recently. Plunging energy prices now mean that, in many places, generating power through wind and solar is less expensive than traditional fossil fuels like coal or oil.

Given that clean energy is often more cost-efficient, it makes sense to optimize computing platforms to leverage the places where clean energy exists. Even if clean energy is not cheaper at this very moment in some parts of the world, projections suggest it will be less expensive in the future.

Therefore, it makes sense to start shifting as much computing as possible to the green data center (or centers) to reduce overall costs. Companies can then pass (some) of those costs on to you. It’s not inconceivable that carbon-efficient computing will likely be the most cost-effective in the future!

Related: What Are Data Center Power Whips (PDUs)?

3) There’s High Demand for This Type of Computing

Carbon-intelligent computing, where companies can select greener data centers to handle their workloads, is in high demand. Companies all over the world are setting carbon targets. Like Google and Microsoft, companies both large and small set aggressive targets for when they will be carbon neutral. 

These targets mean that more and more companies will factor in their computing carbon footprint in those calculations. As more companies become aware, they’ll start asking questions about the data center’s carbon footprint, and having a lower carbon impact will likely become a selling feature.

Ultimately, carbon-intelligent computing is likely going to continue to grow in demand.

4) The Green Data Center Is Fantastic PR

Another reason why carbon-intelligent computing is likely the way of the future is that it makes for fantastic PR pieces. Google recently did an extensive blog post about how they are now doing more computing in places with cleaner energy. These types of PR pieces are fantastic sources of goodwill with customers. They show that they are listening to the needs of our planet and are finding ways to address them.

Over time, as the green data center continues to be the trend, doing computing in climate-friendly locations will likely become the norm. However, for right now, it’s great PR and, if your company elects to use a green data center for computing, you will likely benefit from this PR, as well!

5) Components Are Becoming Much More Energy-Efficient

The push for carbon-intelligent computing is going to be two-fold. First, there’s a push to have energy come from renewable sources. However, renewable sources can sometimes yield less power overall than non-renewables. Unfortunately, coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power all produce very high amounts of consistent energy. Wind turbines and solar work well, but the power can be less when the clouds are out, or the wind is still. In addition, building large solar farms or numerous wind turbines can take up quite a bit of land.

Therefore, there’s a second push going on to make electronics more energy-efficient themselves. The most obvious place where this is happening is the push from X64 to ARM processors. ARM is significantly less power-hungry than the Intel and AMD chips that preceded it. Eventually, that same push will come to graphics cards and machine learning hardware. Apple is already claiming that its M1 chips outperform introductory-level graphics chipsets.

As components and batteries continue to become much more energy-efficient, it opens up doors for power sources. If data centers no longer need quite the same energy level, the question isn’t if they should go green, but when? In other words, if the components themselves no longer need the same energy levels, why not take advantage of the less costly energy sources?

The Green Data Center Is the Future

The green data center is the future of computing. All the big players in this space, including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, are setting carbon goals. They want to be carbon-neutral or carbon-negative within the next decade. One of the ways these companies will achieve these goals is to make their data centers greener!

Indeed, going green is not just great PR or meeting demand; it’s fantastic business because it is cost-efficient and helps improve component efficiency, as well. Carbon-intelligent data centers are the future. If you haven’t already, you may wish to look at incorporating carbon-efficient computing into your existing workflows!

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