Creating a sustainable data center

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The importance of data centers for society has changed. Public life, economy, and society as a whole depend to a very large extend on the proper functioning of data centers, and they can be seen as a critical infrastructure that is also intertwined with other critical infrastructures. This creates societal and “moral” pressure and obligation to demonstrate leadership in creating a sustainable society.

It is an endeavor to create a sustainable data center; a data center that is environmentally viable, economically equitable, and socially bearable. That is because it is not a technical problem but an organizational and economic problem that has to be solved. The scope of this issue goes well beyond the walls of the data center.

There are lots of opportunities to improve the efficiency in the IT and data center supply chain. Doing more with less by removing inefficiency can help to reduce the rate of resource depletion and emission and e-waste. Energy efficiency improvements downstream can lead to enormous improvements for the whole supply chain because of multiplier effects upstream. Replacing carbon-based electricity with electricity based on renewable energy and hydro energy sources can bring CO2 emissions to zero. But that is not good enough.

We have to deal with the “Jevons paradox,” where increases in the efficiency of using a resource tend to increase the usage of that resource and the trends of “digitization of everything” and “anytime, anywhere, anyone connected.” These trends cause a staggering demand for digital services that will be delivered mostly by data centers.

The demand and growth will be unsustainable if we continue to use the old industrial production system based on nineteenth century ideas and concepts of make, take and waste.

If data center suppliers and IT organizations understand the necessity of sustainable production and want to fulfill the growing demand of digital services, then they have to change.

They have to change to a more sophisticated industrial production system by closing the loop: convert the linear production system to a circular system based on use, reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling. Focusing on performance and value in terms of customer-determined benefits will also create the need to make a transition from a goods-dominant logic to a service-dominant logic where suppliers deliver services not goods.

The philosophy of cradle to cradle and service-dominant logic fit very well together by selling results rather than equipment and performance and satisfaction rather than products. To make this possible, one has to broaden his scope beyond the data center. The supply chain should be tightly integrated. The supply chain has to be co-designed and co-developed with the suppliers and customers based on customer pull instead of supplier push.

Creating a sustainable data center calls for innovation. It, therefore, needs a multidisciplinary approach and different views and perspectives, within and between organizations, in order to close the loop and create a sustainable supply chain.

To create sustainable data centers, seven activities can be defined:

  1. Moving toward zero waste: at first the focus should be on the internal efficiency and later on the customer must be involved to reduce underutilization and overprovisioning, and life cycle analysis must be implemented.
  2. Increasingly diminish emissions along the supply chain: identify and evaluate externalities/social costs and act on this by creating sustainable procurement policies.
  3. Increasing efficiency and using more and more renewable energy: introduction of energy management, renewable energy deals with power suppliers, use of local renewable energy, and introduction of the emergy concept.
  4. Closing-loop recycling: take back procurement policy, introduction of reverse logistics, and “design for the environment.”
  5. Resource efficient placement and transportation: reevaluation of data center centralization and economy of scale concept versus economy of repetition and distributed data center concept.
  6. Creating commitment: involvement of stakeholders in the transformation to a new industrial production system.
  7. Redesign commerce: conversion to service-dominant logic and supply chain integration downstream and upstream by co-design and co-production.

Is this endeavor impossible? I don’t think so. It is more a question of commitment. Rethink the “data center equation” of “people, planet, profit” and prepare yourself and your organization to climb Mount Sustainability.

For more information read “Data center 2.0: The sustainable data center”

http://www.amazon.com/Data-Center-2-0-The-Sustainable/dp/1499224680

Aging power plant fleet and data centers

Thomson Reuters made a nice visualisation on Europe’s aging nuclear reactors. Currently the EU operates 131 reactors with an average age of 30 years.

eu-nuclear-TR

It reminded me on a report I wrote in 2012 for Broadgroup about the power market and data centers in Europe. The quality and availability of the data center stands or falls with the quality and availability of the power supply to the data center. So the power market is something to watch closely.

Depending on the power technology that is being used, power plants have different life cycles. Coal-fired plants have a life cycle of about 40 years, gas-fired: 30 years, nuclear: 40 years, hydro: 80 years, and renewables are estimated on 25 years. Based on this life cycle estimates we can say that Europe has an ageing power plant fleet. A report of RWE states that for hard coal power plants more than 70% are in their half of their life cycle, for lignite and gas/oil more than 60% and more than 50% of the plants are in their half of their life cycle. For hard coal plants, based on the EU Large Combustion Plants Directive, 
replacement of all these plants is needed by 2030.

There is the expectation that the nuclear reactor lifetime is 40 years or more. The implication of a forty-year life expectancy is that in the next ten years (from 2012 onwards) forty nuclear power plants will be closed or 30% of the current nuclear power plant fleet. This would be a decommissioning of 30207 Mw net capacity, or 24.5% of the nuclear power capacity.

Given the fact that the average age of the 130 units that already have been closed worldwide is about 22 years, the projected operational lifetime of 40 year or more appears rather optimistic.

The decommissioning of nuclear power plants, has an impact on the carbon policies and targets and can create a shortage in power and a rise of the electricity price if proper counter measures are not taken.

Number of nuclear power plants EOL with a forty-year life expectation scenario (Broadgroup 2012)

Number of nuclear power plants EOL with a forty-year life expectation scenario (Broadgroup 2012)

A special case is Belgium. Two nuclear reactors were closed for a second time in march 2014 because of cracks in the steel reactor casings. The nuclear reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in Belgium will be restarted earliest in the spring of 2015 and there is an increased chance that will be closed forever.

In august another nuclear reactor, Doel 4, has to be shut down after major damage to its turbine because of oil leakage. Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year, with the cause confirmed as sabotage.

As a result of this just over 3 GW of power is offline, more than half of the nuclear powerNuclear power plant Doel supply. Whereas nuclear power contributes about 50% of the electricity produced domestically.

So there is the possibility of blackouts this winter so Belgium will have to boost interconnection capacity with neighbouring countries to prevent power shortages.

According to the Minister of Energy Johan Vande Lanotte the last electricity consumption record was recorded on 17 January 2013, “On such a cold winter day, we consume about 14,000 megawatts. With the current production we come 1000 too short.”

Much depends on the weather, potential problems are to be expected from the end of october or early november according to Elia, Belgium’s electricity transmission system operator.

See Power market, power pricing and data centers in Europe. Broadgroup 2012, for more information about the electricity market and data centers in Europe.

Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center, Now Available!

Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center is now available. Data Center 2.0

The book is showing up on the websites of Amazon and will soon starts to pop up on websites of other  E-tailers’ .

Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center is an in-depth look into the steps needed to transform modern-day data centers into sustainable entities.

See the press release:

Some nice endorsements were received:

“Data Center 2.0, is not so much about technology but about people, society and economic development. By helping readers understand that even if Data Centers, enabling the Digital economy, are contributing a lot to energy saving, they need to be sustainable themselves; Rien Dijkstra is on the right track. When explaining how to build sustainable Data Centers, through multi disciplinary approach, breaking the usual silos of the different expertise, Rien Dijkstra is proposing the change of behavior needed to build sustainable Data Centers. Definitely it is about people, not technology.” 

Paul-Francois Cattier, Global Senior Vice-President Data Center – Schneider Electric

“In Data Center 2.0 The Sustainable Data Center author Rien Dijkstra has gone several steps further in viewing the data center from the perspective of long term ownership and efficiency in combination with treating it as a system. It’s an excellent read with many sections that could be extracted and utilized in their own right. I highly recommend this read for IT leaders who are struggling with the questions of whether to add capacity (co-locate, buy, build, or lease) or how to create a stronger organizational ownership model for existing data center capacity. The questions get more complex every year and the risks more serious for the business. The fact that you’re making a business critical decision that must stand the test of technology and business change over 15 years is something you shouldn’t take lightly.” 

Mark Thiele, President and Founder Data Center Pulse

“Data centers used to be buildings to house computer servers along with network and storage systems, a physical manifestation of the Digital Economy. Internet of Things, the digitization of about everything in and around us, brings many profound changes. A data center is the place where it all comes together. Physical and digital life, fueled by energy and IT, economical and social demands and needs and not to forget sustainability considerations. Sustainable data centers have a great potential to help society to optimize the use of resources and to eliminate or reduce wastes of capital, human labor and energy. A data center in that sense is much more than just a building for servers. It has become a new business model. Data center 2.0 is a remarkable book that describes the steps and phases to facilitate and achieve this paradigm.” 

John Post, Managing Director – Foundation Green IT Amsterdam region

Preview Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center

Data Center 2.0: The Sustainable Data Center is an in-depth look into the steps needed toData Center 2.0 transform modern-day data centers into sustainable entities.

To get an impression of the book you can read the prologue right here.

Prologue

In large parts of the world, computers, Internet services, mobile communication, and cloud computing have become a part of our daily lives, professional and private. Information and communication technology has invaded our life and is recognized as a crucial enabler of economic and social activities across all sectors of our society. The opportunity of anytime, anywhere being connected to communicate and interact and to exchange data is changing the world.

During the last two decades, a digital information infrastructure has been created whose functioning is critical to our society, governmental, and business processes and services, which depend on computers. Data centers, buildings to house computer servers along with network and storage systems, are a crucial part of this critical digital infrastructure. They are the physical manifestation of the digital economy and the virtual and digital information infrastructure, were data is processed, stored, and transmitted.

A data center is a very peculiar and special place. It is the place were different worlds meet each other. It is a place where organizational (and individual) information needs and demands are translated in bits and bytes that are subsequently translated in electrons that are moved around the world. It is the place where the business, IT, and energy worlds come together. Jointly they form a jigsaw puzzle of stakeholders with different and sometimes conflicting interests and objectives that are hard to manage and to control.

Electricity is the foundation of all digital information processing and digital services that are mostly provided from data centers. The quality and availability of the data center stands or falls with the quality and availability of the power supply to the data center.

For data centers, the observation is made that the annualized costs of power-related infrastructure has, in some cases, grown to equal the annualized capital costs of the IT equipment itself. Data centers have reached the point that the electricity costs of a server over its lifetime will equal or pass the price of the hardware. Also, it is estimated that data centers are responsible for about 2% of the total world electricity consumption.

It is therefore easy to understand why the topic of electricity usage of data centers is a subject of discussion.

Electricity is still mostly generated with fossil fuel-based primary energy resources such as coal, gas, and oil. But this carbon-constrained power sector is under pressure. Resilience to a changing climate makes the decarburization of these energy sources mandatory to ensure sustainability.

From different parts of society the sustainability of data centers is questioned. Energy efficiency and indirect CO2 emissions caused by the consumption of carbon-based electricity are criticized.

The data center industry is working hard on these issues. According to the common view, it comes down to implementing technical measures. The idea is that more efficient power usage of servers, storage and network components, improved utilization, and better power and cooling management in data centers will solve the problems.

This idea can be questioned. Data centers are part of complex supply chains and have many stakeholders with differing perspectives, incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements and complex interdependencies. In this situation there is no simple, clear definition of data center efficiency, and there is no simple right or optimal solution.

According to the Brundtland Commision of the United Nations, sustainability is “to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Given the fact that we are living in a world with limited resources and the demand for digital infrastructure is growing exponentially, there will be limits that will be encountered. The limiting factor to future economic development is the availability and the functioning of natural capital. Therefore, we need a new and better industrial model.

Creating sustainable data centers is not a technical problem but an economic problem to be solved.

A sustainable data center should be environmentally viable, economically equitable, and socially bearable.

This book takes a conceptual approach to the subject of data centers and sustainability. The proposition of the book is that we must fundamentally rethink the “data center equation” of “people, planet, profit” in order to become sustainable.

The scope of this search goes beyond the walls of the data center itself. Given the great potential of information technology to transform today’s society into one characterized by sustainability what is the position of data centers?

The data center is the place where it all comes together: energy, IT, and societal demands and needs.

Sustainable data centers have a great potential to help society to optimize the use of resources and to eliminate or reduce wastes of capital, human labor and energy.

The idea is that a sustainable data center is based on economics, organization, people and technology. This book offers at least multiple views and aspects on sustainable data centers to allow readers to gain a better understanding and provoke thoughts on how to create sustainable data centers.

Creating a sustainable data center calls for a multidisciplinary approach and for different views and perspectives in order to obtain a good understanding of what is at stake.

The solution is, at the end of the day, a question of commitment.

Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center (Update)

Data Center 2.0: The Sustainable Data Center is an in-depth look into the steps needed to transform modern-day data centers into sustainable entities. The book will be published at the beginning of the summer.

To get an impression see the following slide deck.

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Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center

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Currently busy with the final steps to get the forthcoming book ‘Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center’ (ISBN 978-1499224689) published at the beginning of the summer.

Some quotes from the book:

“A data center is a very peculiar and special place. It is the place where different worlds meet each other. A place where organizational (and individual) information needs and demands are translated in bits and bytes that are subsequently translated in electrons that are moved around the world. It is the place where the business, IT and energy world come together. Jointly they form a jigsaw puzzle of stakeholders with different and sometimes conflicting interests and objectives that are hard to manage and to control.Data Center 2.0

Given the great potential of Information Technology to transform today’s society into one characterised by sustainability what is the position of data centers?

……..

The data center is the place were it all comes together: energy, IT and societal demands and needs.

…….

A sustainable data center should be environmentally viable, economically equitable, and socially bearable. To become sustainable, the data center industry must free itself from the shackles of 19th century based ideas and concepts of production. They are too simple for our 21th century world.

The combination of service-dominant logic and cradle-to-cradle makes it possible to create a sustainability data center industry.

Creating sustainable data centers is not a technical problem but an economic problem to be solved.”

The book takes a conceptual approach on the subject of data centers and sustainability. It offers at least multiple views and aspects on sustainable data centers to allow readers to gain a better understanding and provoke thoughts on how to create sustainable data centers.

The book has already received endorsements of Paul-Francois Cattier Global Senior, Vice President Data Center of Schneider Electric and John Post, Managing Director of Foundation  Green IT Amsterdam region.

Table of contents

1 Prologue
2 Signs Of The Time
3 Data Centers, 21th Century Factories
4 Data Centers A Critical Infrastructure
5 Data Centers And The IT Supply Chain
6 The Core Processes Of A Data Center
7 Externalities
8 A Look At Data Center Management
9 Data Center Analysis
10 Data Center Monitoring and Control
11 The Willingness To Change
12 On The Move: Data Center 1.5
13 IT Is Transforming Now!
14 Dominant Logic Under Pressure
15 Away From The Dominant Logic
16 A New Industrial Model
17 Data Center 2.0

Needed: a Six Sigma Datacenter

As usual there was a lot of discussion on cooling and energy efficiency at the yearly DatacenterDynamics conference in Amsterdam last week. Finding point solutions to be efficient and/or creating redundancy to circumvent possible technical risks. But is this the way to go to optimise a complex IT supply chain?

In a lot of industries statistical quality management methods are used to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimising variability in manufacturing and business processes. One of the more popular methods is Six Sigma which utilises the DMAIC phases Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control to improve processes.

But when Eddie Desouza of Enlogic asked the audience (of one of the tracks at DatacenterDynamics) who was using the Six Sigma method to improve their datacenters only three people raised their hand out of hundred. Eddie Desouza was advocating the use of Six Sigma to improve the efficiency and the quality of a datacenter. He made the observation that datacenters do apply substantial upfront reliability analysis and invest in costly redundant systems, but rarely commit to data-driven continuous improvement philosophies. In other words focussing on fixing errors instead of focussing on optimising the chain by reducing unwanted variability and reducing the associated costs of poor quality.

He also, rightly, emphasised that datacenter operators should use a system approach instead of a component approach in optimising the datacenter. The internal datacenter supply chain is as strong as its weakest link and there is also the risk of sub-optimisation.

An example of the necessity to use a system approach and to use industry methods like Six Sigma can be found in a blog post of Alex Benik about “the sorry state of server utilization”. He refers to some reports from the past five years:

• A McKinsey study in 2008 pegging data-center utilization at roughly 6 percent.

• A Gartner report from 2012 putting industry wide utilization rate at 12 percent.

• An Accenture paper sampling a small number on Amazon EC2 machines finding 7 percent utilization over the course of a week.

• Charts and quote from Google, which show three-month average utilization rates for 20,000 server clusters. A typical cluster spent most of its time running between 20-40 percent of capacity, and the highest utilization cluster reaches such heights (about 75 percent) only because it’s doing batch work.

Or take a look from another source, the diagram below of the Green Grid:

 UnusedServers

Why is this overlooked? Why isn’t there a debate about this weak link, this huge under-utilisation of servers and as a result the huge energy wasting? Why focussing on cooling, UPS, etc. if we have this weak link in the datacenter?

As showed in another blog post, saving 1 unit power consumption in information processing saves us about 98 units in the upstream of the power supply chain (that is up to the power plant).

So it is very nice to have a discussion about the energy efficiency of datacenter facility components but what is it worth if you have this “sorry state of server utilisation” and that it isn’t noticed and/or that no action is taken on this? Eddie Desouza of Enlogic is right, datacenters need Six Sigma. It would help if datacenter operators would embrace a system approach. Focussing on the complete internal  datacenter supply chain instead of a component approach, and using statistical quality management methods to improve efficiency and quality as in other industries.