All Data Centers and Server Rooms above 50KWh to meet new energy efficiency and power use effectiveness targets? Is this a sign of things to come?
Back in August, we brought you a synopsis of what the 1 Trillion Euro European Green Deal means for Data Centers coupled with the Fit for 55 communications, this ambitious framework as set out by the EU, signals not only ambition but potential regulatory changes that could be set to impact anyone operating Data Centers or Server Rooms (on prem, colo, cloud, edge or otherwise). The Green Deal itself is not a framework for Data Centers per se but it does have some particularly pointed references that we should all be aware of, not least from a July recast of the "Proposal for a Directive on energy efficiency".
"Another important sector to which increasing attention is being paid is the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, which is responsible for 5-9% of the world's total electricity use and more than 2% of all emissions. In 2018, the energy consumption of data centres in the Union was 76,8 TWh. This is expected to rise to 98,5 TWh by 2030 a 28% increase. This increase in absolute terms can as well be seen in relative terms: within the EU, data centres accounted for 2,7% of electricity demand in 2018 and will reach 3,21% by 2030, if development continues on the current trajectory 10 . Europe’s Digital Strategy 11 already highlighted the need for highly energy-efficient and sustainable data centres and transparency measures for telecoms operators on their environmental footprint"
Certainly, one for the savvy amongst us to recognise as a potential for future regulatory action and for forward-thinking leaders to start preparing now to head off any potential challenges.
Are Data Center regulations imminent?
The industry as a whole isn’t ignorant to the “eye of Mordor” that suddenly finds itself locked on the Technology and Data Center space but for many enterprises it may feel like a jolt out of the blue for what is currently a largely self-regulated industry. Sustainability leaders however may be one step ahead in adapting to any new potential regulations, indeed any upcoming or mooted frameworks do, after all, have sustainability and “Net Carbon Zero” targets firmly in their sights, as will our sustainability leaders.
Many of the world’s largest companies already have clearly stated Carbon Zero or Carbon Neutral goals including Unilever who promise to “achieve Net Zero emissions from all our products by 2039”, Microsoft who promise to be “carbon negative by 2030” and of course Google who will be “carbon free by 2030”. The data center industry as a whole has already taken steps to, as Data Center Dynamics put it “Head(ing) off regulation” by taking the European Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact’s ) (CNDCP) proposals to the EU directly. The self-regulatory group consisting of key players from the Data Center industry represents around 90% of the operators including Equinix, NTT, Intel and Google.
One of the CNDCP stated goals surrounds the ever-flawed PUE metrics, stating that “By January 1, 2025, new data centres operating at full capacity in cool climates will meet an annual PUE target of 1.3, and 1.4 for new data centres operating at full capacity in warm climates.” This goal also stands for older facilities but with an extended timeframe to 2030. Interestingly the group whilst not openly acknowledging the flaws in PUE as a measure are actively working “ toward the creation of a new data centre efficiency metric” if PUE is on your agenda, specifically measuring, reducing and improving efficiency check out PUE Alternatives to Data Center Efficiency here.
Other goals include Clean Energy quotas and % goals for WUE measures, Heat/ Power recovery and setting targets within a circular economy framework – recycling, repairing and reusing components and equipment to a standard and % agreed by the group.
The goals and recommendations set out by the pact are all designed to reach the target of Europe as the first Climate Neutral continent by 2050 (as set out by the Green Deal) and interestingly apply to any Data Center or Server room with a potential IT Power demand capacity of 50kw or higher. Well…that got us thinking about just how far-reaching these regulations (should they become so) might actually be…
Sustainability within Data Centers - overdue or overdone?
According to the Uptime Institute, rack density is rising, from an average of 2.4 kw in 2013 and 5.6 in 2017 to 8.4kw as a mean average in 2020 which means that most in-house data center environments or Server rooms (as the CNDCP prefer) and even most hybrid cloud estates would be on or around this measure, anyone with around 6 racks according to the Uptime Institute measurements. Perhaps unsurprisingly then this could mean that whilst the proposals are just that, proposals, should these recommendations be adopted into law many ‘smaller” estates may suddenly face the prospect of adhering to a new regulatory framework or perhaps migrating their entire estates to the cloud with one of the larger providers. Removing the choice, flexibility, scalability, and control that so many organisations need in a competitive environment.
For organisations then that want or need a purely on-premise Data Center or a hybrid of Cloud/ Co-lo and/or on prem any proposed regulation may mean a swift swing into action to ensure compliance. As ever though, with both performance and sustainability in mind, more progressive organisations will already be considering the steps to take to not just meet potential regulatory frameworks but more importantly meet the challenge of efficiency, sustainability, and performance head on.
For sustainability leaders these potential changes may come as no surprise, in fact, the emergence of PAS 2060 and ISO 26000 as sustainability accreditations/ certifications and the growth in sustainability reporting should, if anything, have been a signpost for all industries to start internally regulating their own activities. Unfortunately, in many organisations, the realms of both Data Center and Sustainability can often feel far removed from each other. Anecdotal feedback from a variety of enterprises suggests that whilst the ultimate goal may be the same – better performance, better efficiency, less energy use and better sustainability there are fundamental mismatches and misunderstandings. Commercial pressure, budget constraints and lack of future visibility can mean that core benchmarks (both performance and sustainability), commercial goals and in many cases strategic auditing and deployment of priority projects, infrastructure and even BAU activity can often mean that these critical would-be-companions can feel like opposing forces.
In all organisations both Sustainability, ESG or CSR leaders could and should be raising the issues of energy use, carbon emissions and sustainability within the Data Center – but knowing where to start especially in complex multi-faceted estates can be challenging. Aligning the technology estate and leadership team with clear commercial carbon goals and bringing Data Center leaders firmly into this conversation is a must. Increasing scrutiny of energy performance, renewable energy sources or credits, energy pricing and of course public demand for better sustainability credentials all mean that the Data Center as a major energy user needs input and involvement in achieving better sustainability overall.
Understanding the constant challenge between performance, cost and sustainability goals within the data center is also a must according to our feedback, many Data Center leaders are under increasing pressure to deliver on all fronts, often with tightening budgets so getting to grips with their challenges is key.
Mutual auditing can be a good first steps for sustainability leaders – look for firms like Gaia Edge (of course) that specialise in Data Center Sustainability – many estates include legacy, new and emerging technologies which your teams will already know intimately. They’ll also be well versed in their own measures and metrics like PUE and WUE and may already have sustainability goals in mind.
If you are starting to work more closely with the Data Center then our recent report “The Race to Zero” may be a good read for you.
Whether these potential regulations have hit your radar yet or not performance, efficiency and energy use certainly will be. It’s in the auditing and benchmarking that we should all be doing on a regular basis that we can really help Sustainability.
PUE measures that we all recognise may be unfamiliar concepts to Sustainability and wherever you’re tracking today keeping in mind that the legislative proposals may see a clear goal set at 1.3 or 1.4 across the board so many proactive Data Center leaders are taking the first step in creating their own Zero Carbon Pathways. If you’re currently considering how best to drive efficiency, performance and sustainability check out the short guide here outlining 6 key steps in driving the data center of the future, namely;
01 — BUSINESS ALIGNED OBJECTIVES
02 — UNDERSTAND TECH & INFRASTRUCTURE
03 — BUILDING BENCHMARKS
04 — ROADMAP CREATION
05 — DEPLOYMENT
06 — SUSTAINABILITY
Sharing these goals and indeed setting the agenda from with the Data Center is critical to aligning performance with sustainability and efficiency. Setting your own standards and benchmarks will not only help drive better performance in your existing estate but could help drive vital competitive advantage should these regulations come to fruition. In our own auditing process Gaia Edge examine among other areas:
· Supply Chain
Of course, this list is not exhaustive but is a good start for anyone looking to audit their own environments within a regulatory framework or not.
6 key steps to driving sustainability in the data center
The Climate Neutral Data Centre pact recommendations to the EU whilst an important proposed framework are, without doubt, focused on Data Center providers rather than enterprises that have on-prem or hybrid deployments. Whilst the initiative is commended by many for its’ forward thinking and head on approach its’ also criticised by others as a large providers and hyperscalers dictating the regulatory frameworks and effective “policy making by the few”. Whatever your opinion on the recommendations what is clear is that should this become legislation many enterprises will be forced to act on sustainability issues reactively rather than proactively – perhaps to the detriment of both performance and efficiency measures.
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