How is Climate Change Impacting Data Centers Worldwide?
August 22, 2019

According to the 1,300 scientists around the world that make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), greenhouse gases produced by human activities are the major contributor to a rise in global temperatures that will continue for decades to come. The projected effects of increased temperatures, forecasted to be between 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, include stronger and more intense natural disasters, more droughts and heatwaves, rising sea levels, changes in precipitation patterns, and other regional effects such as increased wildfires and erosion.

These effects will impact data centers worldwide in many ways, but it’s important to note that data centers, and the ever-increasing demands of modern technologies, are a leading contributor to climate change. As Chris Sharp, CTO, Digital Realty states in a recent Data Center Frontier article, “In the U.S. alone, data centers make up approximately 2 percent of all U.S. electricity use. Data center providers have a responsibility of procuring renewable energy…in order to minimize the negative effects on the environment and climate change.

Despite the warning signs, an Uptime Institute survey on climate change found that 45% of organizations are ignoring the risk of climate change disruptions to their data centers. Furthermore, 71% of data centers are not preparing for severe weather events and only 33% are re-evaluating current technologies to adapt to more reliable power and energy configurations.

The numbers are staggering. As some organizations turn to sustainability and preparedness, others ignore the risks. Whether your organization is preparing to protect against climate change or has yet to start, the following are some of the ways in which climate change impacts data centers today and will continue to in the future.

  • Increased need to prioritize sustainable energy practices. Data centers consume massive amounts of power, with the largest data centers consuming as much power as a city of a million people. As pressure mounts from environmentally conscious consumers, more and more organizations are making sustainable energy practices a priority to reduce their carbon footprint. Green data center practices include reducing waste, reusing wasted heat in nearby communities, implementing cooling system upgrades, optimizing airflow, utilizing modular technologies in design and construction, and deploying low-power servers. In addition, data centers need to track Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), or the ratio of the amount of power needed to drive and cool the data center compared to the power draw from IT equipment, with the goal of achieving as close to a PUE of 1.0 as possible.
  • New cooling needs and technologies. Improving energy efficiency through enhanced cooling technologies helps utilize less power and drive costs down. Data centers have explored using cold seawater and groundwater cooling, among other creative cooling technologies. As global temperatures rise, more organizations will need to implement better and more efficient cooling practices and reconsider where their data centers are located. Of course, water-based cooling is dependent on having large amounts of water – something that certain locations may lack in the near future.
  • Improved disaster recovery plans. Increasing temperatures cause more frequent severe weather events which can lead to data center disasters with results such as power outages, data loss, and physical damage. With the increased likelihood of experiencing a service-impacting weather event, organizations need to develop data center disaster recovery plans, power redundancies, and regular maintenance schedules to maintain uptime.
  • New location strategies. As temperatures, weather patterns, and sea levels change, organizations will need to rethink the geographic locations of their data centers. Data centers near vulnerable coasts could end up underwater and as such will need to consider bolstering their physical infrastructure and moving existing critical infrastructure inland. Organizations will also need to consider their locations’ risks of reduced water supplies, erosion, wildfires, extreme heat, heavy downpours, and poor air and water quality.
  • Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software is essential. DCIM software is a vital tool for data center energy management. DCIM monitors building meters, UPSs, floor PDUs, RPPs, intelligent rack PDUs, and environmental sensors, and then consolidates that information into actionable reports, enabling you to save power and money, calculate PUE, and drive green data center and sustainability initiatives. Use DCIM to easily support government regulations, monitor and measure energy savings to collect energy rebates and carbon credits, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming. As the threat of data center disasters increases, DCIM is an extremely valuable solution to monitor data center health and prevent costly unplanned downtime should the worst happen. DCIM allows you to simulate failover, test what-if scenarios, visualize data center and facility health status, and be alerted of threshold violations to help identify hotspots and other potential trouble areas.

Ready to prepare for climate change’s impact on the data center industry? Try Sunbird’s second-generation DCIM solution. Take a test drive today!


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