Looking Forward 2017 in Green Data Centers
Last time I looked back at 2016, but those thoughts begged the question: what will happen next? 2016 showed that polls and predictions are risky, but here are my thoughts on the near future for green data centers.
1. Cloud continues what virtualization started
As I said last time, the biggest news for green data centers in 2016 was the report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL) which found their power consumption is not growing out of control, thanks to the efficiencies provided by virtualization.
But what if that was a one-off? Virtualization is widespread, even on in-house servers, so maybe we’ve reached a plateau and can’t expect more easy savings.
LBNL doesn’t think that’s true. Having consolidated workloads, there’s more to be done by sending them to the cloud, where virtual servers can be placed and aggregated even more efficiently. LBNL’s graph predicts that higher cloud use could actually decrease the electricity used by data centers, even while the service provided by them continues to grow.
2. Nationalism could prove a drawback.
But for that to happen, users and providers will have to negotiate their way around issues such as the location of data centers, and the complex structure international privacy law.
Events such as the UK’s Brexit vote and other nationalist events, could actually work against the full mobility that efficiency relies on, and limit what data centers can do.
After renewable power, recycling becomes more important
Once operators have gained the PR benefit from using renewable power (or at least publishing plans to do so), they have a dilemma. They have drawn attention to the physical footprint of their plant on the planet, and then more-or-less used up the obvious way to stand out from the rest. Once everyone is renewable, so what?
The next step could be to emphasize the other physical effects of the data center. The raw materials used in its lifecycle, and in the disposal of the hardware after it’s broken or been made obsolete.
It will take a while for this to come to the fore, as this is an area which involves actual cost (using renewable energy is no longer a very expensive option, and may actually give benefits).
One drawback: there will be less regulatory pressure to clean up the lifetime emissions and use of raw materials in data centers, as the power of the European Union and the environmental credentials of the US government both decline.
A focus on software and structure
Last time I said that hardware was the core focus of efficiency moves in data centers, with slicker storage, switches and servers all burning less power.
There’s plenty more savings to be had here, and IT vendors are happy to provide the hardware to do it - with the downside that those constant refreshes do add to the environmental burden created by the data center’s use of raw materials.
But I think at some point the tech focus on saving energy in data centers has to expand to the software. Arguably virtualization is itself a software win, allowing workloads to be consolidated, but there has been very little consideration of the actual energy use of those processes.
Streamlining processes and protocols could eliminate a lot of unnecessary cycles in the software. I predict that we may see the start of activity in that direction this year.
Peter Judge is editor at DatacenterDynamics
Image from: commscope.com