Sustainability targets, high energy costs and increased digital usage are reaching a tipping point in the datacentre, making modernising IT infrastructure essential.
For the sake of the environment and business continuity, things have got to change now.
When a large US domestic airline went into meltdown in December last year, cancelling around 16,700 flights, it didn’t really come as a huge shock. Like a lot of companies that rely too heavily on old IT systems and software, there comes a point at which the technology just can’t cope anymore. In the case of this large airline, legacy technology has played a huge role in seeing the firm take a reported $800m hit.
The problem is that when it comes to legacy technologies, so many businesses operate in the dark. It’s not quite a head in a bucket of sand thing, more a case of out of sight, out of mind. For that large US airline, a key problem was not reinvesting profits in the business and in particular, the technology stack.
It’s not that unusual. There are plenty of other businesses facing similar issues. When asked, a lot of organisations have little to no idea how many racks of kit they actually run and they certainly don’t know how much energy these racks are consuming. It’s a double whammy.
The impact on costs and carbon emissions are considerable. And this feeds into continuity. Ignorance is not bliss and as we’ve seen with that US airline, it is potentially damaging to both brand reputation and the bottom line. It’s only going to get more challenging. The advance of technologies, such as IoT, AI, 5G, edge computing, virtual reality and video streaming, for example, are exploding data use and the need for computing power in datacentres. AI is going to accelerate the issue.
In its 10 Strategic Predictions for 2023, Gartner warns of the growing sustainability impact of AI. By 2025, it says, “AI will consume more energy than the human workforce, significantly offsetting carbon-zero gains.” It’s a frightening prediction because with so much legacy technology around, businesses do not stand a chance, to either keep costs under control, or even dream of meeting carbon emissions targets.
Rethink datacentre drivers
Datacentres, the engine room and beating heart of modern computing systems, have their work cut out but only if the underlying infrastructure is not modernised. As Atlantic Ventures suggests in its report Improving sustainability in datacentres, the industry has already “delivered significant energy efficiency improvements over the past decades, and it is now one of the most advanced sectors in terms of energy efficiency and decarbonisation. Nevertheless, the required energy demand is still very high and results in large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions.”
The on-going volatility of energy prices and the abundance of generated data is making running datacentres a specialist job. Organisations need to rethink, with some urgency, any policies which advocate that organisation running its own datacentres. Increasingly, co-location businesses are becoming energy businesses, signing-up to 10-year power purchase agreements to try and find economies of scale and access to more renewable energy sources. It’s a complex industry and one that, for the moment at least, is best left to experts.
Organisations have to ask themselves, whether running their own datacentre is actually a cost-effective thing to do? As Gartner suggests in its report How to Evolve Your Physical Data Center to a Modern Operating Model, “I&O leaders must transition to a hybrid model mindset where the presence of an on-premises datacentre is no longer the primary driver for infrastructure decisions.”
Less is more
Meeting ambitious NetZero targets means making some big decisions. If organisations are really serious about reducing carbon, then it is time to stop thinking about offsetting and focusing on actually reducing energy consumption and emissions. Cost pressures and in particular, Net Zero goals are already demanding a change of mindset. As Atlantic Ventures says in its report, “in the coming years, the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) and the CO2e footprint will become the key indicators for CIOs and IT managers, as well as important building blocks for company-wide climate and sustainability reporting.”
Regulation will also be a key factor here. According to the EU directive “Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive” (CSRD), from 1st January, 2024 all companies with more than 250 employees will be obliged to carry out extended sustainability reporting retrospectively for the 2023 financial year – including activities to protect the climate. The new directive affects around 49,000 companies across the EU – 15,000 of them in Germany alone. According to the EU Commission’s strategy paper Shaping Europe’s Digital Future, the EU is aiming for the ICT industry to be climate-neutral by 2030.
Reducing hardware by removing legacy technology in the stack has to be a priority. By implementing a hyper converged infrastructure (HCI), organisations and datacentre providers can dramatically reduce energy use, carbon emissions, costs and continuity fears.
According to Atlantic Ventures, “in the EMEA region HCI architectures have the potential to reduce up to 56,68 TWh from 2022-2025 and save up to €8.22bn in electricity costs in the same period for companies and datacentre providers undertaking a complete transformation towards HCI.”
These are key stats for co-location firms, as well as for organisations that persist in running their own datacentres. It’s worth noting another point made by Atlantic Ventures, that “if CIOs are planning the move towards a HCI architecture within their own on-premise datacentre they should also evaluate next generation cooling technologies as energy prices tend to keep going up.”
Cooling is a whole other issue. Liquid cooling has huge merit, as opposed to the more traditional air cooling. It comes down to efficient use of resources and minimising impact. Which is also why lifecycle management is so important. Since between 10–20% of the lifecycle related CO2e emissions are attributable to the production, transport and recycling of hardware (servers, storage, network equipment), lifecycle management will be of increasing importance.
This has to be factored into an organisation’s overall footprint. Which is why an energy-efficient and climate-neutral datacentre forms the basis for a holistic and sustainable IT and digital strategy. One that requires modernised IT infrastructures, such as HCI and one that would also limit the risk of business meltdown. Prevention, as one US airline discovered, is better than a cure.
To find out more about modernising your datacentre and to download a copy of the Atlantic Ventures Improving Sustainability in Datacentres report, please click here.
About the Author
Rowen Grierson is Senior Director and General Manager, UK&I at Nutanix. Nutanix is a global leader in cloud software, offering organizations a single platform for running apps and data across clouds. With Nutanix, companies can reduce complexity and simplify operations, freeing them to focus on their business outcomes. Building on its legacy as the pioneer of hyperconverged infrastructure, Nutanix is trusted by companies worldwide to power hybrid multicloud environments consistently, simply, and cost-effectively.
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