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

Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center and the use of Enterprise Architecture

Recently I had an interesting conversation with John Booth of Carbon3IT (who is also Chairman of DCA Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Steering Group) about my latest book on sustainable data centers. The discussion focussed on what the book is addressing and the level of abstraction that is being used.

Based on this discussion I made a short presentation with a different visualization of the idea behind the book and the informal use of an enterprise architecture framework when writing the book.
Although not stated explicitly, the book is loosely based on an Enterprise Architecture Framework. This EA framework has four Architecture domains:
  • Business architecture
  • Information architecture
  • Information systems (application) architecture
  • Infrastructure architecture
For each of these architecture domains, this EA framework shows five levels of abstraction;
  • Why – Contextual;  Motivation, scope, constraints, strategies, principles that apply to the different architecture domains
  • What – Conceptual; The vision of services (business services, information services, application services, and infrastructure services)
  • How – Logical; The mechanisms, components, and connections that provide the services
  • With What & Who – Physical; The physical implementation, deployment and sourcing of all the components and people.
  • When – Transformational; To define an integrated roadmap to make the wanted transformation possible.
The book focus is on the two top layers and scratch the surface of the logical layer or in other words the strategical and tactical level. It also spend some thoughts on transformation.
As stated this architectural framework is used in an informal way it don’t define formal architecture deliverables for the different domains and levels of abstractions.

But in the end the use of an enterprise architecture framework is the way to go to design and “build”,  in a coherent and consistent way,  a sustainable data center.

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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

Data center CO2 emissions

There have been some debate about the source of electricity a data center is using and the CO2 emissions it is causing.

Recently some interesting figures came available by the International Energy Agency. These are the CO2 emissions per kWh electricity generation. Published in the 2013 edition of “CO2 emissions from fuel combustion – Highlights”.

It isn’t easy to find consistent and complete time series. A lot of the data that can be found is using different definitions and/or different time periods what makes it difficult to aggregate these figures. IEA has published time series for the period 1990 – 2011.

To make some comparisons a selection from different parts of the world is showed in table 1. Remarkable differences in CO2 emissions can be found. Some countries show a huge decrease of CO2/kwH emission during the period 1990 – 2011 whereas others show an increase. Also within a region the differences are considerable. Zooming in on the E.U. countries with Tier 1 data center markets; United Kingdom, France, Germany and The Netherlands, (with the DC hubs London, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam) we see a CO2/kwH reduction of 34.4%, 41.9%, 21.4% and 33.4%. Differences in emissions and emissions trends are caused by different energy policies and different compositions of the power plant fleet.

Table 1. CO2 emission per kWh from electricity generation, source IEA.

  2011kg CO2 /kwH Difference 1990 -2011

%

E.U. 0.352 -21.4
United Kingdom 0.441 -34.4
France 0.061 -41.9
Germany 0.477 -21.4
The Netherlands 0.404 -33.4
Russian Federation 0.437 7.6
U.S.A. 0.503 -13.6
Canada 0.167 -14.8
Australia 0.823 0.7
Singapore 0.500 -44.9
Japan 0.497 14.3
Korea 0.545 4.8
India 0.856 5.4
China 0.764 -14.5

 

The figures that are showed are averages. The CO2 emission of a data center depends on the power plants that are really used to deliver electricity to the data center. Depending on the electricity demand the power supplier will assign different power plants. The assignment of power plants is according to their production efficiencies (short-run marginal costs of production) and capacity and this production mix will influence the CO2 emission per kwH.

CO2 emission per server

To get an impression of the CO2 emission per server in different parts of the world we making use of the report ”Estimating total power consumption by servers in the U.S. and the world” of J.G. Koomey of Stanford University, the power usage of low, mid and high range server are estimated on 180, 420, and 4800 Watt. This will lead to the figures in table 2 based on a 24 hours x 365 days usage.

Table 2. Yearly CO2 emission per server.

Kg CO2/year Low range server Medium range server High range server
E.U. 555 1295 14801
United Kingdom 695 1623 18543
France 96 224 2565
Germany 752 1755 20057
The Netherlands 637 1486 16987
Russian Federation 689 1608 18375
U.S.A. 793 1851 21150
Canada 263 614 7022
Australia 1298 3028 34606
Singapore 788 1840 21024
Japan 784 1829 20898
Korea 859 2005 22916
India 1350 3149 35993
China 1205 2811 32125

 

Data center use case

What do all these figures mean for a data center? Lets take for example a data center of 1000 servers with a PUE of 1.8. In this case we use a server mix of 95% low range, 4% mid range and 1% high range servers. Besides servers the data center will also use storage and network components. The ratio of the energy use of servers versus the energy use of storage and network components is set to 75:15:10.

We can define a worst-case scenario when electricity is created with conventional coal combustion; in that case 1kW of electricity is equivalent to 1 kg CO2 emission. For the data center in this use case, that would be an upper limit of 4957 ton CO2 per year. In reality power suppliers are using a mix of different energy sources. As we can see in table 3, the lowest emission is 302 ton and the highest emission is 4244 ton. A difference with a factor 14!

Table 3. CO2 emission of a data center.

Metric ton CO2/year Servers Storage Network Data center
E.U. 727 145 97 1745
United Kingdom 911 182 121 2186
France 126 25 17 302
Germany 985 197 131 2365
The Netherlands 835 167 111 2003
Russian Federation 903 181 120 2166
U.S.A. 1039 208 139 2494
Canada 345 69 46 828
Australia 1700 340 227 4080
Singapore 1033 207 138 2479
Japan 1027 205 137 2464
Korea 1126 225 150 2702
India 1768 354 236 4244
China 1578 316 210 3787

 

Zero emission

There is of course the alternative case of zero CO2 emissions if the electricity supply is completely based on nuclear, hydro or renewable energy. Some countries like Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland have extreme low CO2/kwH emission (1, 13, 17 and 30 gram).