Data centres have become critical for business continuity in today’s digital economy. Now, with the decentralization of the workforce brought on by a shift to many employees working from home, organizations are relying on their network infrastructure to keep businesses running and keep services for consumers seamless.
This trend towards a distributed workforce will not be short-lived. Many businesses like Twitter, Facebook, Google and Shopify have already announced plans to leave a traditional office behind long term or permanently. With these changes, systems need to be reliable and resilient against user and power fluctuations, and they must be properly equipped to handle this new work style.
Data centres provide organizations with essential services such as collecting, storing, processing, distributing and providing access to large volumes of information that, in turn, enable companies to run and individuals to experience the world as we know it. Everything from streaming television shows to financial services to personal photo storage relies on data centres.
While they are a critical part of our everyday lives at home and work, data centres are also energy intensive, using billions of kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. These facilities are often housed in buildings, or groups of buildings, complete with computers, telecommunications equipment and storage systems, backup components and power supply infrastructure, as well as air conditioning and various security devices—all of which have energy needs.
“They are using vast amounts of electricity,” says Wei Shi, an associate professor at Carleton University’s School of Information Technology. “They generate a lot of heat and need to be cooled down.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that demand for data centres and data transmission network services will continue to grow strongly over the next decade, especially as our world becomes increasingly connected and digital.
“Innovation will be critical to ensuring that energy efficiency gains continue to keep overall energy demand in check,” the IEA said in a recent report. It also noted that demand for data centre services is being offset by “continued improvements in the efficiency of servers, storage devices, network switches and data centre infrastructure, as well as a shift to much greater shares of cloud and hyperscale data centres.”
The demand for data centre services, together with the growing importance of mitigating environmental impact, presents an opportunity to maximize efficiencies. To that end, data centres around the world are partnering with organizations that can help them become more energy efficient and reduce their operating costs.
“The reliance on cloud and data centre services has been growing exponentially for years,” says David O’Reilly, vice-president and general manager of Schneider Electric’s secure power division. “That growth has also encouraged incredible competition and customers are realizing that taking an environmentally friendly approach gives them a sharp competitive advantage.”
Mr. O’Reilly also notes that it’s not enough to just focus on the straightforward challenges of managing a business. “We must address the hard problems of sustainability head on. That’s where the greatest gains for organizations can be made and that’s where we can help,” he says.
Schneider Electric focuses on helping businesses in this space solve challenges by deploying a mix of tailored solutions. For example, its EcoStruxure platform can help new and existing data centres with the ability to find efficiencies where they are needed most and find opportunities to optimize energy usage. Sensors and alarm systems can alert data centre managers to issues before a system goes down. And edge energy storage technologies, which enable computing to be done at or near the source of the data instead of the cloud, can extend critical power performance.
DigiPlex, a leading data centre in Norway, chose a suite of Schneider Electric solutions to deliver efficiency, flexibility and performance, which has resulted in an overall reduction in energy consumption and increased reliability for its customers.
The firm believes that being more sustainable will help it better compete with other data centres. “Ten years from now, if you don’t operate a completely renewable, sustainable data centre, you will not be here,” Pål Rune Viken, operations manager for DigiPlex Norway says.
“Ultimately, we are arming businesses with the ability to make smarter, more sustainable decisions to use their facility better,” says Mr. O’Reilly. “Understanding what the energy use is, what the cooling capacity is, where they have stranded power, what pieces are underutilized – all that information is now at their fingertips.”