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How connected infrastructure can boost data centre sustainability

Image: Adobe Stock / sdecoret

Ionut Farcas, SVP, Europe Hub, Power Products at Schneider Electric, makes the business case for sustainability and data centre resiliency, and how connected infrastructure could be the key to unlocking both.

The urgency of the climate crisis has never been greater. Earlier this year, EU climate services reported global warming has exceeded 1.5 ºC across an entire year, unquestionably driven by human activity. According to experts, the current rate of emissions could mean crossing the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5 ºC as a long-term average within the next decade.

The time for action is now. But how can we fight climate change at the pace and scale needed to slow its effects for good? The answer lies in building the resiliency of data centres and connected infrastructure.

Data centres and their role in a sustainable future

So, how do data centres play into this scenario? Currently, data centres consume about 3% of the global electric supply and account for around 2% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – levels equivalent to the entire airline industry. What’s more, with data centres expected to continue scaling at a pace of 12% annually, generating a predicted revenue of US$85 billion in 2024, emissions figures are estimated to increase to 5-7% of the global emissions.

However, data centres can be more friend than foe in the climate fight. They play a pivotal role in reducing GHG emissions, powering artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices that are vital tools to minimise our impact on the planet.

According to the IEA, to get on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, emissions must be cut in half by 2030 — and data centres will be key to achieving this ambitious goal.

Sustainability and resiliency are not mutually exclusive – they are business imperatives

Our growing reliance on data centres has exposed two major challenges for operators in the future: resiliency and sustainability. In 2024, governments are increasingly scrutinising the building of data centres over fears that their high energy consumption will put excessive pressure on electricity grids. This impacts energy security for the areas where they are situated and may hinder progress towards national climate targets if appropriate sustainability guidance is not followed.

For instance, Ireland, Germany, Singapore, China and Amsterdam in the Netherlands have introduced restrictions on new data centres in recent years to comply with more stringent environmental requirements, while Gartner also estimates that data centre downtimes set businesses back by upwards of $300,000 per hour. The business case for resiliency and sustainability in data centre operations has never been so clear, but how can leaders go about improving this?

The power of connected infrastructure in improving data centre agility, resiliency, and business value

One of the greatest pain points for data centre resiliency has been how to accommodate the large amounts of energy required, sustainably. With the IEA estimating that global data centre electricity use will double by 2026, power distribution is perhaps the biggest constraint on development in data centre hotspots globally.

To make operations more resilient, guarantee business continuity, and boost energy security, the data centre sector is looking to digitisation. By digitising power distribution systems, data centres can use connected products to build an overview of an entire site’s energy landscape. By analysing this data, leaders can then make operations smarter, more productive, and more profitable. Connectivity also gives the following key benefits:

  1. Connectivity delivers monitoring and visibility
    Thanks to round-the-clock connectivity and capturing data on the state of equipment and electrical currents at customer facilities, data centre leaders can perform real-time maintenance. Systems can be set up to issue alarms when anomalies or danger signs are detected so teams can take act quickly and prevent small snags becoming big problems.
  2. Connectivity delivers improved communication
    Diagnostics capabilities enable predictive maintenance by sending alerts through monitoring software. When something requires attention, such as when a battery needs replacement or a breaker is approaching its end of life, leaders get an instant notification and can fix the issue.
  3. Connectivity delivers business value
    This greater connectivity enables wider data collection and enhanced analysis. Insights can be used to boost efficiency, with data captured from power systems enabling immediate and long-term benefits. Data collected in real time enables quick decisions when an issue demands immediate attention, while data accumulated over time provides insights that enable predictive maintenance and strategic investments.

Connectivity powers the future of data centres

In our increasingly digital world, we’ve witnessed an exponential growth in demand for data centre services. Any downtime or outage experienced across the value chain has fast become high-profile, headline-making news. And while data centre uptime has always been a business imperative with clear stipulations outlined in service level agreements, the sustainability of sites has only just begun to move up the priority list.

Connected products and connectivity investments enable long-term relationships between manufacturers, service providers, and customers, facilitating ongoing communication to improve the efficiency, performance, and reliability of power distribution systems. This enhanced connectivity demonstrates that sustainability is made possible by responsibly, and proactively, maintaining uptime in operations — and by leveraging new technologies and implementing bold strategies, data centre leaders can adopt a new mindset.

Picture of Ionut Farcas
Ionut Farcas
SVP, Europe Hub, Power Products at Schneider Electric

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