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In the quest of a net zero data center

Net zero means the companies, through power reduction and other efficiencies equals the reduction in carbon emissions to the amount of emissions emitted. Abhijit Bhalerao, Head - IT, Force Motors Group discusses ways to bring about power consumption reduction and other important KPIs for a data center, which will ultimately result in a net zero data center

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With an unprecedented increase of digital connectivity and business continuity needs, along with the learnings from global slowdown due to Covid-19, the pressure on data centers across the globe will go up like never before. With climate change having emerged as a global challenge, the industry now is giving an enhanced focus on environment friendly solutions, and the template of net-zero data centers can be one of the ways to make companies achieve the sustainability development goals.

Gartner has projected the data center market to reach a whopping $200 billion in 2021. The year of the pandemic has also pushed the digital world to rethink on data center design and adapt with an approach to use clean energy, low carbon footprint, and yet have an efficient digital ecosystem inside a data center.

According to a news report, in the beginning of 2020, globally about 44 zettabytes of data was generated. So, inevitably, the demand for data centers will grow across the world. According to Fortune India, there are about 30 upcoming hyperscale data centers in India.

Therefore, the next generation data centers need a ‘SMARTDATA’ approach to meet ever increasing business requirement and yet be smart and efficient enough to be driven by sustainable development goals. While the key performance indicators (KPIs) do provide statistical analysis of how the assigned resources are being utilized compared to the optimum level, it’s time for IT Leaders to have more holistic perspective to them.

The “SMARTDATA” factors:

(S) Sustainable Model (with Collaboration)
The efforts are on among CXOs, OEMs and data center designers to build a road map to create a net zero data center. This includes the equipment used, energy source, the electrical & mechanical setup used to run and maintain the operating environment and the overall architecture supporting the complete infrastructure to work in harmony. Today, the data centers have to be more resilient and reliable, yet there should be conviction to achieve sustainable development goals. This can only be achieved through global collaboration and redefining standard development model of a next generation net zero data center.

(M) Manageability
Conventional monitoring systems do provide data and alerts for data center management. But, sometimes, too many alerts are overwhelming for the operation center. With the use of right hardware, sensors and tools in place, a system can be developed not just to ‘Detect’, but to ‘Detect & Act’. An Intelligent AI based response system can be developed to take care of critical issues and predict possible impact before actual event of outage or down time. It’s time for an AI driven data center Infrastructure and Information management system. Having a Central digital neural system in place collecting and analyzing all health and performance parameters including (but not limited to) power, resource utilization, cooling of a data center 24X7 will always give a competitive advantage. Recent reports have shown that the operational cost of Data Center can be reduced to more than 40% with an AI based management system.

(A) Availability
Data Centers today need a more granular study to have an efficient Service Continuity system in place. Availability and reliability of Data at rest, Data in transit or any operational Data is very critical in modern business landscape. Any traditional business continuity system suffers with Complex and time consuming process to get the business running. Also, there are challenges like Data inconsistency, performance issues etc. High Availability (HA) & Disaster Recovery (DR)- HADR data center topology should be in place while implementation cutting edge technologies of Application clustering, load balancing, High speed data replication.

(R) Research
The Green Grid (TGG) has time and again developed and provided various metrics for industries to design, operate and upgrade Data Centers. Some of the well-known metrics like PUE (power usage effectiveness), Water Usage effectiveness (WUE), Carbon usage effectiveness (CUE) provide reliable assessment of the resources used and help to build a road map for energy, water and carbon sustainability of the Data Center. Many IT industry leaders, OEMs and governments have joined hands to come up with innovative solutions to everlasting demands of Data center like Power, space, cooling etc. Liquid cooled servers are an example. Organizations have to be innovative and adaptive towards non-conventional approach.

(T) Technology
It is an undeniable fact that the pandemic propelled the digital transformation. Collaborated computing driven by data centers across the globe kept the systems running with services like online shopping, digital banking, virtual meeting and so on. 2021 and the years to come will see a fundamental changes in the way IT infrastructure are designed and deployed in Data Centers. Software Defined Data Center, Hyper convergence, Hyperscale Data Center, Data Fabric, Solid state storage, Edge computing, High speed network communication channels like Infiniband, fiber channels are some of the promising technologies for the next generation Data Centers. Our ability to understand, adopt and integrate new technology into work will play a key role and give us a competitive advantage.

(D) Design
Next Generation Data Centers must have cleaner technologies as an integral part of their design approach especially when it comes to power and cooling systems. A Circular economy model with net-zero water stream impact is already being tested in some of the most advance data centers on the planet. Replacing diesel generators with fuel cell, local reliable power grids, using high scale energy storage system are some promising solutions to energy demands of data center. At the same time new concepts of strategic collaborations are reshaping how business operate. Data-center-as-a-Service, Co-location services are gaining popularity in modern border-less world.

(A) Audit
Data center is the back bone of the IT infrastructure 
in an organization driving all operations directly or indirectly. To ensure the security, effectiveness and efficiency of an IT Data Center, periodic security assessment or inspection, in the form of audit is required to provide reasonable assurance to stakeholders and management that their investment in physical IT hardware and supporting equipment such as power, cooling, environmental, safety and security equipment/devices are reasonably protected and functioning optimally. Inclusion of audit and assessment into standard operating procedure and not just a yearly exercise, will help achieve KPIs and improve overall efficiency.

(T) Total Cost of Ownership-Organizations must have clear understanding of Total Cost of Ownership of the Data Center. TCO must analyze all parts that are included in operating the datacenter and it should investigate total cost involved in obtaining, utilizing, installing, sustaining, disposing and changing IT and data center assets.   Efficient and effective strategies should be in place for asset management, scalability & sizing, asset maintenance and Asset life cycle.

(A) Adaptive approach
Rolling out new technology and system upgrade or replacing a defective hardware comes with lots of challenges and complexities inside a Data center. A prior planning for redundancy with minimal downtime can assure service continuity. Organization must have scope and flexibility for improvement and have a strategic change management policy and process in place. The definition of change management is increasingly merging with terms for data center automation and orchestration.

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