Some progressive data center providers have already demonstrated their commitment to solving the most arduous sustainability challenges associated with data center infrastructure: energy consumption and water usage. Cooling infrastructure consumes the highest percentage of energy and presents the greatest opportunity to realize efficiency improvements. Adaptive, sustainable, and intelligent data center platforms that offer advanced cooling technology, which utilizes less energy and water, not only reduce resource usage, but also lessen environmental impact and lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Moreover, such cooling systems can deliver efficiency at any load, in any climate, and regardless of location to support organizations’ sustainability goals.
There is also the challenge of accommodating high, mixed, and variable-density environments, which many data center models fail to accomplish, leading to stranded power and space capacity. The average data center uses only a small portion of its power to do computation work, and the remainder is lost idling while waiting for the next traffic surge, likely due to over-provisioning of resources out of fear of downtime.
An adaptive data center platform can help companies achieve greater business value with less costly energy and infrastructure resources while utilizing data center assets to their fullest extent possible and ensuring that no idle systems consume wasted electricity. The adaptive data center supports high, mixed, and variable density without stranding capacity or other inefficiencies. To accomplish this, innovative data center providers architect traditionally static systems to be dynamic — able to handle different densities, as well as variable power draws.
A number of public utilities in certain regions of the U.S. are taking up the mantle of sustainability in partnership with data center providers. For example, the Arizona Public Service (APS) has a substantial renewable energy portfolio, using a balanced energy mix that is 50 percent carbon-free. Data center providers in Phoenix are working with the APS, which is now purchasing clean energy from a new solar power supplier as part of its “Solar after Sunset” program. Similar green energy programs are gaining traction in other major American data center markets, including Salt Lake City, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Northern Virginia, with public utility sustainability options ranging from wind and solar to biomass and biogas.
Converting the world’s data centers to 100 percent renewable energy will not be an easy task to accomplish, but rare is any challenge worthy of our focus that does not require concerted effort and innovation. That said, designing and building sustainable data center infrastructure is within our purview; it’s our responsibility, and it is something we can do — now.
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As any CTO, CIO, IT, or facilities administrator will tell you, it takes a substantial amount of energy and often copious amounts of water to power and cool a traditional data center. According to Global Market Insights, conventional cooling systems, on average, represent 40% of total data center energy consumption. Meanwhile, data centers worldwide, as with all industrial sectors in advanced economies, face the potentially spiraling challenge of decreasing water resources.
Aligned was founded on the premise of solving the world’s toughest sustainability challenges associated with data center infrastructure, energy consumption and water usage, and the company’s commitment to sustainability is woven throughout our corporate fabric. Earlier in the year, Aligned announced its increased commitment to environmental stewardship by matching 100% of the IT loads across its data center portfolio with certified renewable energy. Additionally, the company’s proprietary cooling technology, Delta3, utilizes up to 80% less energy and 85% less water to improve Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), reduce environmental impact, and lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for customers.
Delivering Rapidly Scalable, Yet Sustainable Data Centers
Aligned’s ability to deploy our mechanical and electrical systems in small increments, and only when additional capacity is needed, contributes to sustainability because we are not deploying and stranding resources that aren’t being utilized for an extended period of time. Moreover, this empowers hyperscalers, cloud and platform providers, and enterprises with high-density computing requirements to truly future-proof their IT environments in the wake of unpredictable usage and growth models.
Aligned works collaboratively with clients to achieve shared carbon-reduction goals, and access to renewable power options is a critical criteria in our data center location selection process, whether a customer seeks to deploy a new facility in proximity to a wind farm in Scandinavia, or a next to a solar array in Arizona. In some cases, these engagements may go beyond Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), carbon offsets, and various Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
An example of this is Aligned’s Tier III 180 MW data center in Phoenix, which was designated a sustainability redevelopment project. The Arizona Public Service (APS) has one of the country’s most substantial renewable energy portfolios, using a balanced energy mix that is 50 percent carbon-free. Aligned is currently working with the APS, which is now purchasing clean energy from a new solar power supplier as part of its “Solar after Sunset” program. In turn, our colocation tenants receive the benefit of an attractive, long-term tax exemption on their IT equipment purchases.
Just recently, Aligned was also named a 2020 Green Lease Leader by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Alliance. Launched in 2014, Green Lease Leaders sets national standards for what constitutes a green lease, while recognizing property owners and their customers who modernize their leases to spur collaborative action on energy efficiency, cost-savings, air quality, and sustainability in buildings. Aligned achieved SILVER Recognition for evolving its sustainability standards to implement green leasing practices that drive reduced operating costs, shared energy savings, and sustainability benefits across its entire portfolio of adaptive data centers. To receive this recognition, Aligned qualified for credits in energy efficiency and sustainability best practices such as utility data tracking and sharing, cost recovery for capital improvements and sustainability training.
When it comes to delivering rapidly scalable, yet sustainable data center infrastructure, flexibility is essential. This flexibility can come in a variety of attributes. As discussed, it extends to a willingness and ability to offer customers access to a variety of renewable power options that meet their needs, as well as ultra-efficient cooling technologies that reduce water usage and enable customers to accommodate varying workloads and scale without stranding capacity or space. Flexibility also means considering access and proximity to renewables in the site selection process of a prospective data center, and data center design principles and construction processes that support sustainability, from building materials to supply chain methodology.
This level of flexibility, however, also requires a data center provider to have ready access to capital in order to achieve maximum velocity across platform delivery and ensure unprecedented speed-to-market. As we return to our corporate offices and schools, the present uptick surrounding digital service usage is likely to abate, but just how much remains to be seen. According to a recent Gartner study, approximately 74 percent of CFOs surveyed expect some of their employees now working remotely due to COVID-19 will continue working this way after the pandemic ends. Compound this with the amount of data that next-generation technologies will generate, including IoT-enabled devices, Artificial Intelligence, 5G, and autonomous vehicles, and it’s clear that the demand for compute, networking, and storage capacity will remain relatively high. So too, will the need for intelligent, adaptive, and sustainable data center solutions that ensure minimal environmental impact.
Andrew Schaap is CEO of Aligned. As a data center, IT, private equity and real estate executive with over 20 years of complex transactional experience and multi-disciplinary senior leadership, he is dedicated to accelerating business growth by driving the delivery of data center solutions with industry-leading technology and adaptive infrastructure. Since beginning his tenure with Aligned three years ago, Andrew has exponentially grown company revenues, completed several successful capital raisings, and cultivated an ecosystem of innovation that advances Aligned’s commitment to reducing the social, economic and environmental impact of the digital era.
Author: Phill Lawson-Shanks, Chief Innovation Officer & Sustainability Committee Chair, Aligned
At a time when nations around the world have implemented some form of shelter-in-place and social distancing policy due to COVID-19, now might not seem to be the opportune time to begin a discussion of climate change, sustainability, and data center infrastructure. However, as Rhiana Gunn-Wright, Director of Climate Policy at the Roosevelt Institute, has observed, pandemics like the coronavirus may occur more often when climate change continues unabated, because warming and changing weather patterns shift the vectors and spread of disease.
Data centers consume an estimated 200 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity each year, according to the International Energy Agency, which contributes to 0.3% of overall carbon emissions and global warming. Hence, with humankind in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, even as we face this global health crisis with a rapidly expanding mobile workforce, now is the time for the data center industry to have this talk and follow up with action. We must elevate our commitment to sustainability and renewable energy alternatives.
With IDC predicting global data to surge from 33 zettabytes (ZB) last year to 175 ZB by 2025, we can’t reduce the amount of data that next-generation technologies such as IoT-enabled devices, Artificial Intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and smart city applications will generate. However, we can and must strive to develop innovative technical solutions, including data center infrastructure, which will balance the needs of humanity and business with that of the planet. Sustainability isn’t just a critical aspect of global public and environmental health, it’s also smart business.
So, what is the way forward? How can the data center sector make a difference as an environmental change agent today, as well as for tomorrow?
Look for pt. 2 to find out.
About Phill Lawson-Shanks
Phill has more than 25 years of experience identifying new opportunities for further growth of leading data center infrastructure, network architecture, and cloud solutions in the U.S. and abroad.
As Chief Innovation Officer at Aligned, Phill is responsible for the management of revenue generation and profitability objectives, as well as championing key marketing and communications activities aimed at maximizing new business development.
Prior to joining Aligned, Phill served as Chief Innovation Officer at EdgeConneX, where he was instrumental in driving strategies focused on creating the next generation of network edge-based data centers for the digital content ecosystem. Throughout his career, Phill has also served in numerous senior executive level positions at Virtacore, Alcatel-Lucent, Savvis (now CenturyLink Technology Solutions), and MCI (now Verizon Digital Media Services). He currently holds eight active technology patents.