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July 29, 2022

Hyperscalers and Sustainability; a mutually beneficial relationship

What tactics can they use to be more environmentally friendly?

hyperscalers and climate change

Datacenters, dubbed the hub and driver of the modern life we know and love. Your Philips smart bulb? Needs a datacenter. The sensors on your car to help you park? Need a datacenter. The streaming service you use on a Saturday night to recharge after a hard week at work? Needs a datacenter and so on and so forth. If datacenters disappeared, life as we know it and innovation itself would slow down completely. Hyperscale datacenters are more important than ever but so is their drain on natural resources. In this article, we look at some of the ways Hyperscale datacenters can improve their sustainability and set an example for the rest of the industry. 

Image || Pixabay

 To give you a better idea of how much we depend on Datacenters, research suggests that an average person produces 1.7 megabytes of data every second, with well over 300 billion emails sent daily. Here’s a question for you: How would your daily routine change if you removed data and datacenters?  

But there’s a problem… datacenters and in particular Hyperscalers use a lot of natural resources. A 1 MW datacenter that uses traditional cooling methods, uses 25.55 million litres of drinking grade water. Datacenters consume up to 200 TeraWatts of electricity worldwide and equally similar levels of CO2 .     

What is a Hyperscale Datacenter?

Hyperscalers are often defined by their size and capacity. To be a Hyperscaler, it is widely accepted that the facility must occupy over 10,000 sq ft and have a capacity bigger than 40 MW.  Hyperscalers are usually owned and operated by the company it serves. Notable companies include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, Meta, Apple and Microsoft. Hyperscalers are seen as a key driver for setting the standards for a more sustainable datacenter industry.  

What do we mean by a sustainable datacenter?

Datacenter sustainability refers to the overall energy-efficiency and environmental friendliness of a data center. The idea of a green datacenter then, often looks at different processes and systems that can be implemented to turn datacenters from a burden to a benefit. 

Climate change is not new. However, investment in sustainable technologies has skyrocketed over recent years, 60% of G2000 companies are committed to implementing sustainability KPI’s by 2023. In fact, Hyperscalers themselves are already driving initiatives to help reduce their impact on the environment; Google announced a partnership with the AES Corp. to supply carbon-free energy to Google’s data centers around the clock. Amazon announced a Climate Pledge Fund to invest in companies’ technologies to decarbonize the economy and run 100% renewable energy by 2025. But, more needs to be done.  

Strategies for a more sustainable Hyperscaler industry

Let’s take a look at the technologies and strategies available that can drive the change towards a more sustainable Hyperscaler industry:  

1. Do more with less 

Implement processes and technologies throughout the whole facility that will allow you to do more while using less natural resources. This could be through adopting renewable energies, different cooling techniques or more efficient processes. The main goal is to reduce the amount of water and power and land needed to run Hyperscalers effectively

2. Demoting Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)  as king of the metrics 

PUE has long been the go-to metric for datacenters that want to measure efficiency and up until now, it has done a good job. However, there are strong arguments to suggest it is no longer enough to give a true picture of how sustainable a datacenter truly is. Instead, datacenters need to also measure factors like CO2 emissions and Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE).  If you were asked to provide data around these metrics, could you? If the answer is no, it is time to look at how you can start to tracking this activity.  

Image || Pixabay

3. Out with the air in with the new… 

Go with us on this, we’re not saying you have to do a complete overhaul of your IT Cooling systems. BUT, the chances are, if you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years, you’re aware of Immersion cooling. Instead of using air to cool IT components, submerge the IT hardware in a dielectric coolant. Immersion cooling solves both business and operational issues like, space, density and hardware life-span while also offering environmental benefits of zero-waste of water and heat recapture. Implementing Immersion, hybrid or otherwise is widely recognised as the most environmentally friendly cooling technique to date.   

4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! 

Research suggests that the amount of redundant servers in an aircooled datacenter is extremely high.  As demands on server capacity and performance become more intense, companies are faced with the dilemma of what to do with old equipment. Recycling will become more important over the next few years, indeed it represents an opportunity for extra revenue from IT asset disposition. The process may also help to facilitate the transition from air cooling to Immersion.

5. Beat the heat by reusing it

No matter what cooling system you use, heat to some extent is unavoidable. The difference is that some technologies, like Immersion, allow you to recapture the heat and repurpose it. By recapturing the heat you open a new potential revenue stream to datacenters. Heat produced by datacenters can power local office buildings, hotels, feed district heating systems and much more. In a time when operational costs are sky high, can you really afford to let the heat go to waste?  

6. If you don’t do it, someone will force you to 

ESG Regulations for the datacenter industry have been coming over the past of years, with governments and indeed the general public waking up to the potential impact that datacenters have on the environment. If companies do not take the initiative to implement more sustainable practices, chances are, they won’t get very far. Redesigning the hyperscaler for climate change means future-proofing it for tomorrow.  

A new kind of Hyperscale datacenter is coming.. Are you prepared?  

Adopting and designing hyperscalers, and more widely datacenters, to be more sustainable is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. The industry and its providers must work together to find a balance between sustainability and resilience. It requires working together to implement different technologies but also open discussions about metrics and results backed by industry wide initiatives.  

Submer is helping Hyperscalers to become leaders of change and innovation with their single-phase Immersion cooling technology. Find out how we can help you with your project today or read about our project with Wyoming Hyperscale White Box.