The environmental cost of data centers is on the rise, with energy topping the list of concerns. While these centers provide massive amounts of digital storage and grow compute power for businesses and consumers, the operational costs of these centers aren’t only measured in dollars.
Hidden Costs of Digital Technologies
Newer data centers consume a fraction of the amount of energy and other resources to run, but older centers face the challenge of delivering similar levels of service at a much higher run rate. The capital cost of new centers is staggering with an estimated $20 billion annual price tag, but the continuing energy consumption of older centers is an even greater challenge. Currently, data centers use 3 percent of the global electricity supply and pollute as much as all airlines combined. Stack that energy usage next to data needs doubling every two years and you can see the cliff approaching in the near future.
Light the World with Simple Searches
It’s easy to ignore the ecological impact of digital technologies, especially since these technologies rarely make it to the forefront. Instead of producing products, these systems run production. They are the invisible helper behind everything from hailing a cab to manufacturing a bar of soap. And, older data centers are anything but green. Google estimated that a single search used as much electricity as a 60-watt bulb for 17 seconds. That might not seem like much until you realize that this search engine process 1.2 trillion requests each year.
Simply storing and accessing data eats a lot of power, but that problem is compounded by the fact that it can cost as much to cool these systems as it does to run them.
Overcoming Energy Issues
Turning older data centers into energy efficient operations depends on two factors:
- Energy efficiency
- Renewable resources
For new centers, this has driven construction in areas where renewable energy or alternative cooling solutions are readily accessible like Finland, Denmark, and Sweden. For older centers, the location is already set, but that doesn’t mean energy usage must remain static. Older data centers can retrofit their existing systems with modern techniques for cooling and balancing energy usage. The Federal Energy Management Program demonstrated the viability of this option with a 31 percent drop in PUE.
Start with Modular Cooling
At Aligned Energy, we target the cooling end of the power problem. Since cooling can cost as much as operations, we focus on providing a system that helps you keep temperatures optimal without draining local water supplies or spiking the electric grid. Our industry leading 1.15 PUE helps reduce costs and drives toward the goal of energy-efficient operations. Plus, keeping water use low (our system uses 1/10 the water of historical data centers) tackles the next environmental issue looming for data centers. Update existing centers for the future using modular cooling at the point of heat and see a reduction in continued energy costs. It’s a win for everyone.
You can’t talk about 5G, data networks or the “Internet of Things” (IoT) without adding a new buzzword to the conversation: densification. But it’s more than the latest trend; it comes with real, relevant value. As network providers work overtime to keep pace with increased demand on bandwidth, densification is a solution that can achieve efficiency and better customer experience.
Densification in a word (or two) is more capacity, specifically within the same area or footprint. Think about the last concert or sporting event you attended, and the thousands, even tens of thousands, of people using their mobile devices all at once. The saturation of users clogs the network and all of a sudden you can’t upload that perfect selfie or favorite video clip. The same concept happens with data networks. And densification is the proverbial Drayno.
According to Ericsson’s Mobility Report, global mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 42% from 2017 to 2023. The report states, “in response to increasing demands, the mobile industry is focusing on optimizing the spectral efficiency of LTE in existing frequency bands using new advanced functionalities, such as Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) and carrier aggregation. To solve capacity needs long-term, most countries are expected to make additional spectrum available under new national 5G regulatory regimes.”
An article in Enterprise Insights says that the “continuous increase in traffic within mobile broadband systems and continuous increase in required and requested data rates for end users will impact how cellular networks are deployed in the future, according to Telecom Insights.”
Power and cooling demands are increasing exponentially, and it’s an advantage—environmentally and for businesses—if companies can handle a lot more power in the same space. High-density data centers help drive environmental and operational cost efficiencies. The more network, compute, storage and service you can deliver per work cell cost, the better it is for your pocketbook and the planet.
What is the future of densification?
There are three major trends driving an increase in data center density:
1) Doing more within the same footprint. The opportunity for businesses with large infrastructures and deployments to gain significant efficiencies and competitiveness is a very real benefit. For example, the difference between low density (measured on average at 6KW/rack) versus high-density (measured at 12KW) data centers is enough of a swing to experience real cost savings.
2) 5G network creation and its requirements of high system capacity and high per-user data rates. This will require a densification of the radio access network or the deployment of additional network nodes. As 5G becomes more defined and eventually standardized, densification grows increasingly important for ultra-dense network configurations, especially for metro areas heavy with users, such as New York City or San Francisco.
3) Power and cooling availability and efficiency. Driving high-density data center efficiencies and lowering costs is a huge competitive advantage both in the short and long-term. Aligned Energy’s cooling technology can cool efficiently to 50 kW per rack for real cost savings in both energy and real estate.
While the future of data center densification is important to do more with less space, creating efficiencies and improved service, densification is also important because, well, we love our smartphones. And that’s not changing anytime soon.
Aligned Energy’s technologies can future-proof your data centers. One of our data centers in Dallas, Phoenix, Arizona or Salt Lake City, Utah, enables clients to take advantage of an industry-leading 1.15 PUE and run 1-50 kW per rack and mix densities within the same row. To learn more, check out our website.
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