In the post-pandemic cloud/ESG-first era, data centers are power hungry lynchpins that need hyper efficiency to keep the world churning

In the past years most of the world managed to weather the sudden storm of national and global lockdowns, shifts to hybrid-working and rushed digital transformation due to the scalability of data centers to support skyrocketing levels of cloudification.

Still, the capacity for data centers to support escalating demand for cloud and digital services is being affected by ongoing supply chain disruptions and acute labor shortages. Furthermore, spiking global inflation and energy prices, exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war, have forced every level of organization to rearrange supply chains and adjust energy costs.

The volatility has steadily driven up energy consumption costs, and managing such critical expenses are and will be a priority imperative for successful, future-proof data center operations.

Matias Peluffo, Vice President, Building & Data Center Connectivity (Asia Pacific), CommScope

While these global shocks do not exclusively impact the data center segment, the exponentially growing role of back-end data center processing and storage in everyday commercial, consumer and social use has magnified the challenges of the cloud data center landscape. So, how are data center operators coping? Following are some strategies being pursued with environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) in mind.

    • Doing more with narrower margins for error
      The speed and volume of data being generated, processed and transported by cloud-reliant and cloud-based applications is growing exponentially. Downtime is costly and intolerable.

      Many new and critical applications require very low latencies to work well. Therefore, data centers are increasingly being moved to the edge of the network to shave those last few precious milliseconds off the response time.

      Also, 5G is being used to achieve low latency bandwidth for ever more advanced applications.

    • Chasing greater energy efficiencies
      For data center operators, efficiency is not so much a metric for profitability as it is a metric for survival in 2023.

      The bottom line is that data centers must continuously look to increase the efficiency of service delivery, using leading-edge fiber and infrastructure, as well as machine learning and AI tools. At the same time, operators must increase efficiency in terms of energy use per unit of compute power.

      When weighing energy efficiency, cost is the most obvious factor, but it is by no means the only one. Increasingly over the next few years, sustainability metrics are expected to significantly influence operations and decision making.

      In a year where global geopolitical tensions, rolling blackouts and insufficient heating in Europe and elsewhere are uncertainties to be contended with, both regulatory and social opinions will only tilt further away from data center developers. That is why energy efficiency takes top priority, and data centers are under pressure to:

      • convert to the most efficient and accessible storage media
      • use detailed analytics to identify storage, compute, and power consolidation opportunities
      • deploy ultra-efficient, uninterruptible power supply systems
      • evaluate their facility’s thermal limits and switch to colocation to share electrical and communications overheads
      • perform real time measurements of stress on the existing electrical grid and transitioning to more sustainable power localize to the data center. Siting facilities near renewable energy sources is also strongly considered.

      On a more strategic level, moving data centers to the edge, connected by high-speed fiber, can also greatly enhance energy efficiency and latency.

The world needs to embrace ESG

All of the strategies above, and countless others, demonstrate how much efficiency in our daily cloud-centric lives now depends on data centers.

While many people may never appreciate the broader social and commercial impact a data center has on the world, it is worth remembering how fast, robust data storage and processing can improve all of the most vital and often overlooked parts of everyday living.