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Experts discuss importance of a collaborative approach to sustainability

Experts discuss importance of a collaborative approach to sustainability

Data CentresGreen TechnologyInsightsTop Stories

On November 11, 2019, BRE Global announced the release of the Data Centre Annex Pilot which is to be used alongside the BREEAM New Construction International manual. Developed with feedback from several key stakeholders, the Annex provides data centre buildings with the ability to assess and improve their sustainability and environmental performance against the current BREEAM New Construction International manual for new-build projects around the world.

In 2010, BRE Global released the BREEAM Data Centres manual for the UK market. Since then, the industry has seen huge developments from the approach in terms of how data centres are used in operation, to the way they are designed and built. BRE Global has actively engaged with key stakeholders in the data centres industry to ensure the pilot BREEAM Data Centres criteria annex meets the needs of the evolving data centre market. Key partners on this project have included global critical environment specialist, Keysource, Future-tech, Operational Intelligence, Carbon3IT and PTS Consulting.

The annex combines elements of the EN 50600 series of standards for energy efficiency with BREEAM’s own holistic approach to sustainability, covering issues such as water stewardship, building management, materials and ecology, offering new opportunities for data centres to stand out in the market.

Shamir Ghumra, BREEAM Director, said: “The pace of change in the world is ever accelerating and BREEAM is continuously evolving to help the built environment move towards a net zero world. Data centres represent a key part of the global building portfolio and is one that has shown leadership in moving towards more sustainable design, construction and performance. This new annex to BREEAM will provide this important asset class with greater assurance on its sustainability aspirations for investors, clients and tenants alike.”

Stephen Lorimer, Associate Director at Keysource, said: “While we are starting to see a change within the industry, sustainability and environment factors have generally taken a back seat when compared to ensuring availability. This is mirrored by most of the standards and accreditations currently available which tend to focus on service availability and commercial considerations – whether the design, delivery or ongoing operations of an environment, rather than sustainability practices such as the EU Code of Conduct. We’ve been working closely with BREEAM for over a year and we think this new annex is a great step towards ensuring sustainability is at the core of the industry.”

Experts have offered their contributions surrounding the importance of a collaborative approach to ensuring sustainability at the core of the data centre industry.

Marc Garner, Vice President, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric UK&I: Concern over the effects of climate change are forcing the data centre industry to pay greater attention to sustainability. This cannot be done by individuals, companies or the industry in isolation; collaboration is essential to deliver a viable, sustainable and digitised future.

Examples of formal collaborative efforts to address sustainability at an international level include the Climate Group’s global EP100 and EV100 initiatives, which bring together companies committed to improving their energy productivity and the transition towards electrical vehicles; and the RE100, a  group of major companies that have committed to using 100% renewable power. These initiatives reflect two key concerns: how do we generate energy more sustainably; and how do we use it more efficiently?

For the latter, the data centre sector plays an important role in improving processes and efficiency across today’s technology industries. The Internet of Things (IoT) depends on a resilient digital infrastructure to deliver on that promise. Here, the industry must set an example, driving process and energy efficiencies in its own operation, while assisting the next generation of technology professionals to do the same.

For data centres, this can be achieved in several ways: through more stringent management of industry processes and adherence to new standards; deployment of next-generation data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) systems, which utilise AI and cloud computing to deliver increased insights into performance metrics and energy consumption; and via pre-integrated products or solutions that leverage open technologies and allow vendors to collaborate on established industry standards, while competing only on the merits of their products.

Greater standards and pre-integration will also drive interoperability of industry-leading technologies, ensuring customers deploy only the most energy efficient solutions, which at the data centre level will comprise power, cooling, security, processing and networking equipment. This becomes even more important with the advocacy of 5G, where it is well documented that telco energy usage across the Edge Computing environment is set to dwarf that of current data centres. Therefore, a new set of standards, potentially similar to PUE, must be created for the Edge and telco.

When combined with next-gen DCIM software, these Edge Computing solutions can themselves be deployed more sustainably, efficiently and with lower energy usage.

Schneider Electric is committed to following UN Sustainable Development Goals, with 75% of our turnover in the Digital Transformation of energy management, which delivers greater efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions. Between 2015-2025, we will invest €10 billion in R&D and innovation, aimed at sustainability and to-date, our carbon neutrality programme has resulted in Schneider Electric customers saving 100 million tons of CO2 through our offers. Our target is to achieve carbon neutrality across all our sites by 2025 and to achieve net-zero operational emissions by 2030.

Most importantly, we intend to have net-zero omissions throughout our entire supply chain, including suppliers, by 2050. Such ambitious targets are not achievable by one company acting on its own, meaning a collaborative approach is essential to achieve these goals.

Gerard Thibault, CTO, Kao Data: The demand for data centre services is growing rapidly; the rise in digital technologies and their associated uses has escalated year on year and shows no signs of slowing. With just under half the global population still to come online, the role that data centres play in our everyday lives will only increase in significance.

Some industry analysts have forecast that data centres will consume as much as 20% of global electricity by 2025. With such large numbers forecast, collaboration in our industry, including the extended supply-chain, will need to be an absolute requirement if we are to ensure sustainability, reduce carbon emissions and create more efficient processes. However, for a collaborative approach to succeed in any industry, a large amount of openness and transparency is required. This can be immensely challenging when the industry is fiercely competitive and at times incredibly secretive. One could argue that legislation needs to be in place to ensure future data centre facilities are designed and built to a specific standard, however the fields of technology and legislation have rarely moved at the same pace. In some instances, this could be a potential hindrance to the innovation and development of ideas that can move the industry forward.

The Green Grid, the Open Compute Project and the EU Code of Conduct have provided metrics and guidelines around energy consumption and efficiency, but organisations such as these are largely voluntary. While there is a tremendous amount of focus on the large hyperscale cloud and colocation providers, there is very little focus on enterprise facilities.

A report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2016 on US data centres concluded that despite electricity consumption rising for more than a decade and an increase in the deployment of large hyperscale facilities, consumption had started to plateau, largely due to the significant increases in the operating efficiencies of these new and larger facilities, making them less energy intensive.

The data centre industry is the subject of scrutiny and constant review by industry analysts and consultants. It is relatively easy in this day and age to find the total technical floor space of a colocation provider, or the amount of MW powering a new hyperscale facility. However, the majority of inefficient legacy infrastructure sits within the enterprise sector, which is largely unpublished. As companies migrate their services to hyperscale and colocation providers, inefficient legacy infrastructure will gradually reduce. However, this is not a quick process – migrating existing workloads comes with a completely new set of challenges that involve a variety of different stakeholders within a business.

In order to maximise the sustainability and efficiency of the sector, I believe that greater collaboration will be required from customers and vendors alike, to ensure new infrastructure design and delivery meets the real market requirements.

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