By Phill Lawson-Shanks, Chief Innovation Officer & Sustainability Committee Chair, Aligned

As many in the data center sector are aware, it takes an enormous amount of energy to power and cool a data center. To offset carbon emissions, mitigate global warming and become more energy efficient, the world’s tech giants continue to lead the way in converting their hyperscale facilities to 100 percent renewable energy. However, the goal of making data centers more energy efficient isn’t just the province of hyperscalers such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Rather, designing and building sustainable data center infrastructure must be embraced across industries and around the world.

Some progressive data center providers have already demonstrated their commitment to solving the most arduous sustainability challenges associated with data center infrastructure: energy consumption and water usage. Cooling infrastructure consumes the highest percentage of energy and presents the greatest opportunity to realize efficiency improvements. Adaptive, sustainable, and intelligent data center platforms that offer advanced cooling technology, which utilizes less energy and water, not only reduce resource usage, but also lessen environmental impact and lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Moreover, such cooling systems can deliver efficiency at any load, in any climate, and regardless of location to support organizations’ sustainability goals.

There is also the challenge of accommodating high, mixed, and variable-density environments, which many data center models fail to accomplish, leading to stranded power and space capacity. The average data center uses only a small portion of its power to do computation work, and the remainder is lost idling while waiting for the next traffic surge, likely due to over-provisioning of resources out of fear of downtime. 

An adaptive data center platform can help companies achieve greater business value with less costly energy and infrastructure resources while utilizing data center assets to their fullest extent possible and ensuring that no idle systems consume wasted electricity. The adaptive data center supports high, mixed, and variable density without stranding capacity or other inefficiencies. To accomplish this, innovative data center providers architect traditionally static systems to be dynamic — able to handle different densities, as well as variable power draws.

A number of public utilities in certain regions of the U.S. are taking up the mantle of sustainability in partnership with data center providers. For example, the Arizona Public Service (APS) has a substantial renewable energy portfolio, using a balanced energy mix that is 50 percent carbon-free. Data center providers in Phoenix are working with the APS, which is now purchasing clean energy from a new solar power supplier as part of its “Solar after Sunset” program. Similar green energy programs are gaining traction in other major American data center markets, including Salt Lake City, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Northern Virginia, with public utility sustainability options ranging from wind and solar to biomass and biogas. 

Converting the world’s data centers to 100 percent renewable energy will not be an easy task to accomplish, but rare is any challenge worthy of our focus that does not require concerted effort and innovation. That said, designing and building sustainable data center infrastructure is within our purview; it’s our responsibility, and it is something we can do — now. 


About the Author

Phill has more than 25 years of experience identifying new opportunities for further growth of leading data center infrastructure, network architecture, and cloud solutions in the U.S. and abroad.

As Chief Innovation Officer at Aligned, Phill is responsible for the management of revenue generation and profitability objectives, as well as championing key marketing and communications activities aimed at maximizing new business development.

Prior to joining Aligned, Phill served as Chief Innovation Officer at EdgeConneX, where he was instrumental in driving strategies focused on creating the next generation of network edge-based data centers for the digital content ecosystem. Throughout his career, Phill has also served in numerous senior executive level positions at Virtacore, Alcatel-Lucent, Savvis (now CenturyLink Technology Solutions), and MCI (now Verizon Digital Media Services).  He currently holds eight active technology patents.