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Harnessing the power of AI: Paving the way for sustainable data centres

Harnessing the power of AI: Paving the way for sustainable data centres

Digital TransformationFeaturesGreen TechnologyIndustry ExpertInsightsOperations & Systems

Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK, explains how data centre operators can utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) for sustainability practices while emphasising the significance of human expertise alongside AI.

Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb UK

With sustainability high on the boardroom agenda of public and private sector organisations everywhere, CIOs are focused on reducing the environmental impact of the IT function itself. However, this is no easy task as Digital Transformation gains momentum and demand for compute and infrastructure resources grow.

In pursuit of ambitious goals, IT leaders are assessing the ESG performance of IT vendors and service providers while embracing new circular economy practices that include the reuse and redeployment of equipment. They are also evaluating the sustainability credentials of data centres – and with good reason. Data centres consume vast amounts of energy. Therefore, boosting the overall efficiency of data centre operations and reducing carbon emissions makes sense from both an environmental and cost perspective.

Designed with resilience, secure data processing and energy efficiency in mind, today’s modern data centres are using innovative approaches to minimise their environmental impact. They are employing every tactic from harvesting rainwater for cooling to utilising green or carbon-free energy sources. They are also deploying Artificial Intelligence (AI), alongside automation and Machine Learning to enable smarter and more sustainable data centre operations.

Turning data into actionable insights

Data centres produce huge volumes of data, encompassing everything from temperature readings and power consumption to network traffic. However, turning all this rich and detailed monitoring and performance data into actionable intelligence is something that has proved challenging for data centre operators, until now.

When it comes to addressing environmental concerns, operators are now able to leverage connected IoT sensors, AI and advanced analytics to aggregate this data and reduce environmental impact. This delivers all the transparency and reporting that customers need to evaluate and validate their performance against ESG targets. These powerful AI systems also enable operators to reduce waste and ensure their facilities operate more sustainably. This in turn optimises their data centre infrastructure to reduce disruptions and identify the best energy reduction strategies.

The transformative impact of AI

Gartner has predicted that 75% of organisations will have implemented a data centre infrastructure sustainability programme by 2027. As such, AI is set to move centre stage as a key asset that will deliver all the actionable intelligence needed to optimise the provision of key services such as power, cooling and connectivity. All of this is essential for maintaining the uninterrupted data centre operations that organisations need.

For example, by analysing temperature and cooling data, AI can predict when cooling systems might fail or require maintenance. Similarly, by monitoring network traffic, AI can forecast future peaks and troughs to enable better and more efficient allocation of resources. By monitoring server performance, network congestions and disk utilisation, AI can also help data centre operators predict potential data outages and proactively intervene to minimise downtimes.

From an environmental standpoint, today’s AI platforms can track and analyse the silos of data generated by monitoring sensors deployed across data centre facilities. It can then make real-time adjustments that will boost performance while reducing environmental impact. For example, a key challenge for data centres is the energy that is utilised for cooling systems. The more powerful a data centre is, the more power it needs to consume. By deploying AI in conjunction with sensors and Machine Learning, data centre operators can automate the real-time control of cooling systems. This move simultaneously reduces energy usage and carbon footprint while minimising the need for human intervention.

Furthermore, when integrated with innovative technologies like water cooling and renewable energy sources, AI can enable data centres to significantly reduce their reliance on fossil fuel-based energy sources – reducing both CO2 and greenhouse emissions, as well as lowering the amount of water they consume for cooling processes. All of this represents a major contribution to the achievement of sustainability goals.

Building trust in AI-driven capabilities

To deliver all these improvements in their data centre operations, operators must ensure that AI systems are able to manage data responsibly and are appropriately trained to make the right decisions. Similarly, as AI continues to evolve, data centre operators will need to ensure they fully understand all the technical and organisational implications as well as any potential challenges before they deploy new AI technologies or evolve existing AI systems.

Ultimately, integrating AI into the data centre is more than just a technical endeavour. Rather than replacing human expertise, the deployment of AI systems should be viewed as an opportunity to augment and enhance existing human capabilities and decision-making. This will help to deliver the insights needed to enable more efficient operations and enhance the customer experience.

Looking to the future, it’s clear that AI is a powerful technology that can help orchestrate the most sustainable operation of data storage and processing for customers. Alongside automating the management of physical assets related to the data centre environment itself, today’s AI systems can also deliver all the analysis and insights that data centre customers will need to manage their workloads in the most efficient way possible.

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