The EPA notes that the rapid rate of data centers popping up around the world is having a terribly negative impact on the planet. One of the most obvious impacts is the sheer amount of power consumption. Data centers account or three percent of the global electricity supply and consume more power than the entire United Kingdom.
The lesser obvious impact is the fact that data centers produce tons of waste caused by disposal. When you have tech giants like Amazon and the like deploying more than a million physical servers per year globally, the older server equipment they replace will have to go somewhere – just as how IT equipment from smaller businesses and electronics in consumers home have to go somewhere eventually.
And unfortunately most of this equipment does not end up where it should. In fact, the EPA estimates e-waste, discarded electronics, now accounts for two percent of all solid waste and about 70 percent of toxic waste. This is harmful to the environment since old servers and components contain chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium, as well as hazardous chemicals such as brominated flame retardants.
And much of that is due to poor configuration and management, according to a study from server vendor Supermicro. In a survey of people who purchase and administer data-center hardware, only 59 percent of the 361 respondents consider energy efficiency as an important element when building or leasing a new data center. It’s fourth on the priorities list behind security, performance, and connectivity when managing existing data centers.
Network World reports that about 58 percent of respondents did not know their data-center Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) – which measures how efficiently you cool your systems. The closer to 1.0 the better. For example, it’s been found that you don’t necessarily have to chill your data center equipment to that of a refrigerator. Natural ambient temperature is fine in many cases, and you can save a lot of money, power, and water if you don’t turn your data center into a meat locker. It may not be pleasant for the humans, but the servers will carry on just fine at this temperature. However, we must note that PUE measurements tend to be popular among hyperscale data center operators and is not yet widely used.
However, only 6 percent of those who did know their PUE have it at optimal levels. In short, hardly anyone is looking at the efficiency of their data center, and that is translating into burned out hardware that needs to be disposed. An estimated 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste is disposed of globally every year, depositing heavy metals and other hazardous waste into our landfills.
Once IT leaders identify and solve key inefficiencies and modernize their data centers, they can become more adept at planning their digital path forward and deploying new initiatives.