For data center owners and operators, it ain’t easy being green

Global Relay’s Senior Writer for Due Diligence, Vince Mendoza, talks about the intricacies and importance of green data centers.

20 January 2023 4 min read
by Jennie Clarke

It certainly ain’t easy being green, especially if you’re a data center owner or operator.

Data centers are among the most energy-intensive facilities. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data centers consume 10 to 50 times the energy per floor space of a typical commercial office building. Collectively, it is estimated that U.S data centers account for “approximately 2% of the total U.S. electricity use”, and the UK’s National Grid notes that they are believed to be responsible “for at least 1% of global electricity consumption”. This figure is only likely to increase as the use of information technology grows.

Much of that energy is used to power and cool servers. Modern society has a hunger for instant data processing, with data centers kept running 24/7/365 to satiate our demands. This process generates massive volumes of carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas (GHG) that traps and retains heat in the atmosphere, significantly contributing to climate change. This is particularly astonishing given that the National Grid predicts that 90% of a data center’s energy is wasted while “the systems are idling and waiting for the next surge of traffic, with only 10% used for actual heavy computational work”.

As internet usage throughout the world rises every year, so does the demand for more data center services – increasing the risks of greater GHG emissions.

When considering their significant energy consumption, data center operators have a responsibility to ensure the environment receives the same level of protection as the sensitive data in their custody and care. Doing so is both smart business practice and ecologically accountable entrepreneurship.

What is a green data center?

Instead of traditional methods of storing and managing data, green data centers use alternative processes to minimize their impact and output on the environment.

This covers all elements of design, from the way they are powered, through to the way they are cooled or the way heat is dispersed within. In order to be sustainable and have longevity, green data centers have become the preferred option insofar as they are more efficient, more transparent and easier to justify for the purpose of emerging climate disclosure rules.

Why choose a green data center?

The Paris Agreement, the first-ever legally binding global climate deal, entered into force on November 24, 2016. It aims, among other things, to limit the average global temperature from rising more than 2◦C above pre-industrial levels. Data center owners and operators can do their share in curbing climate change by reducing their GHG emissions through green data centers.

As well as the Paris Agreement, financial regulators across the globe now expect firms to disclose climate-related information (from SFDR to TCFD), which extends to the input and output of the services they employ. With the growing importance of Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) measures, sustainability should therefore be top of mind when conducting due diligence for the onboarding of new vendors. As stricter regulatory expectations emerge, firms will need to take stock of their contribution to help offset the effects of climate change, and may need to revisit how they operate. Using a green data center is one clear way of future-proofing your business.

Finally (and often the key consideration for financial services companies) is investor preference. Over the past five years, there has been a marked shift in investor preference for organizations with ESG initiatives in place. If you can show that you’re invested in green technology, you might just win the hearts and minds of investors.

How does Global Relay’s green data center operate?

In keeping with an urgent need to minimize and mitigate climate risk, Global Relay opened its own green private data center on Earth Day 2014. Our data center uses alternative, eco-friendly processes to store and manage data, while simultaneously minimizing climate effects.

For instance, instead of traditional, mechanical air conditioning, Global Relay’s green data center employs free air and evaporative cooling to keep its servers temperate, cutting its energy consumption in half. The facility also runs on hydroelectricity, a low-carbon, renewable resource; and uses variable frequency drives (VFDs) to ensure all air handling equipment operates only at the required minimum speed, further increasing energy efficiency and prolonging equipment life.

Beyond its energy-saving features, Global Relay’s data center uses a flywheel, uninterruptible power supply (UPS), not the toxic, failure-prone led acid battery UPS found in many data centers.

Global Relay’s green credentials, alongside our reputation for successfully connecting compliant messaging with intelligent archiving, makes us the most viable choice for every step of your compliant communication process; from capture, to archive, to surveillance.

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Published 20 January 2023

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Jennie Clarke Senior Manager - Marketing Content

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