Green and Black
Less than a week into the Trump administration, it is clear the current U.S. government will roll back regulation, funding and support around climate change efforts. Data center operators located in the States will find fewer regulatory incentives to "go green," but that doesn't change basic business fundamentals or market demand for an environmentally friendly solution.
Basic business fundamentals, as I've preached for years, means assessing the total cost of ownership (TCO). One time capital expenditures (CapEx) and recurring operational expense (OpEx) for data centers essentially translates to building and operating server rooms. More often than not, the biggest recurring operational expense cost is power to run servers and keep them at an efficient operating temperature--"cool" is a loose concept these days, with servers able to operate at warmer thermostat settings of up to 82 degrees Fahrenheit without affecting operations or equipment reliability. Tradition set the dial between 68 to 72 degrees, but letting temperatures rise means lower power bills.
Higher server room temperatures, in combination with more efficient strategies/layouts for cooling, opens up options to either add more servers/compute power while keeping the electric bill around the same benchmark or simply reap the benefits of lower utility bills. IT-heavy businesses running data centers tend to add compute power.
Capital purchases of new servers also provides a trade space for opportunities in the data center. New generation hardware tends to be both faster and more power efficient than equipment purchased several years ago, offering operators the opportunity to provide more computing power in the same physical footprint with less electrical power needed or a "right size" to the same computing capacity with lower physical footprint and less power.
In both instances cited above, operational expense –lowering cost and/or gaining new capacity—is the driving factor, regardless of the type of electricity consumed. But customers purchasing space and services don't ask about operational expense. Instead, they can have requirements for environmentally responsible policies, including green data centers.
Fortune 500 companies from Amazon and Apple to Walmart have made public commitments to climate change policies, including pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. Such practices are a win-win for global businesses because it cuts operational costs while demonstrating to shareholders and customers that they acknowledge the threat of global warming. While the incoming administration may be conducting a rollback of climate change policy, the rest of the world is not. Businesses operating outside of the United States will still be held accountable to the standards and norms of the countries in which they operate. For the rest of the world, climate change isn't going away with a change in American leadership.
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