Challenges of Maintaining Sustainable Data Centers

neuCentrIX - 15/06/2022 10:00

Most people often associate sustainability with water conservation and recycling. However, sustainability is becoming more crucial in the tech industry, particularly at data centers, where most web traffic is routed.

This means there is a need to reduce water or energy usage and carbon emission to counteract the increasing use of computers. But this also comes with many shortcomings as more people adopt a digital lifestyle.

Here are some of these challenges, and how they are making the sustainability of data centers a daunting task. 

1. Energy Consumption
Energy is one of the essential aspects when it comes to data centers. With the rapid growth of data centers worldwide, more power is needed to address the need for more data storage. Many studies show that there has been a continuous rise in the use of the internet, and over 90 percent of the world's data center info was produced in the last two years alone. 

Every person on earth created about 1.7 MB of data per second from 2020. Keep in mind that most of the energy used by these data centers is from unsustainable sources. While they can try to use renewable sources, it's tough for them to match the rate at which data is being transmitted.

2. Water Use
Water is an essential commodity in almost every sector, and data centers are not excluded. The primary function of water is to cool down machines, which in most cases are constantly running. Therefore, the data center has to use water throughout the year, consuming a lot of it. A research study done by Uptime Institute shows that a data center with a 1MW (Megawatt) capacity using water for cooling consumes about 25 million gallons every year. 

This is a big problem for many data centers to the extent that some, such as Microsoft, have decided to build underwater data centers. 

3. E-Waste disposal 
Most people have owned an electronic device that they had to dispose. Have you ever wondered where the waste ends up and the amount of impact they bring to the environment? Well, this is also a significant challenge faced by data centers. 

As technology advances and data centers adopt new devices for better computing, they have to dispose the old electronics. However, this poses a significant problem as some waste isn't sustainable and can't be recycled. 

4. Land Use and Biodiversity 
Data Centers impact the land and ecosystem that they are built on. Although they take up smaller land spaces than other commercial buildings, dedicated and alternative energy sources like solar and wind farms may affect biodiversity. 

5. Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Gas emissions may not seem like a big issue for maintaining sustainable data centers. However, when you look at the number of data centers in Indonesia and worldwide, the figures are astonishing. A study by the International Energy Agency indicates that data centers consume about 1% of the world's electricity and are accountable for 0.3% of CO2 emissions. 

Having sustainable data centers can be a great move towards addressing the issue of climate change and countering adverse environmental impacts. But, this can only be gained if the above challenges are tackled and better solutions established.