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

At a time when nations around the world have implemented some form of shelter-in-place and social distancing policy due to COVID-19, now might not seem to be the opportune time to begin a discussion of climate change, sustainability, and data center infrastructure. However, as Rhiana Gunn-Wright, Director of Climate Policy at the Roosevelt Institute, has observed, pandemics like the coronavirus may occur more often when climate change continues unabated, because warming and changing weather patterns shift the vectors and spread of disease. 

Data centers consume an estimated 200 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity each year, according to the International Energy Agency, which contributes to 0.3% of overall carbon emissions and global warming. Hence, with humankind in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, even as we face this global health crisis with a rapidly expanding mobile workforce, now is the time for the data center industry to have this talk and follow up with action. We must elevate our commitment to sustainability and renewable energy alternatives. 

With IDC predicting global data to surge from 33 zettabytes (ZB) last year to 175 ZB by 2025, we can’t reduce the amount of data that next-generation technologies such as IoT-enabled devices, Artificial Intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and smart city applications will generate. However, we can and must strive to develop innovative technical solutions, including data center infrastructure, which will balance the needs of humanity and business with that of the planet. Sustainability isn’t just a critical aspect of global public and environmental health, it’s also smart business. 

So, what is the way forward? How can the data center sector make a difference as an environmental change agent today, as well as for tomorrow? 

Look for pt. 2 to find out.

About Phill Lawson-Shanks

Phill Lawson-ShanksPhill 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.