Carbon Neutrality, Green Data Centers and Eco-Friendly Practices in Switzerland
Apr 20, 2018

Carbon Neutrality, Green Data Centers and Eco-Friendly Practices in Switzerland

During the last couple of years, people throughout the world have become more aware of the impact that climate change is having on the environment. For those who do not know, the actively increasing carbon footprint has massive effects, including, but not limited to: rising temperatures, changing up precipitation patterns, shifting the way plants grow, rising sea levels, shoreline erosion, interferences with crop growing, diseases, economic losses and more.

These aspects have led to the appearance of the carbon neutrality concept, which basically means having a zero carbon footprint. This can be achieved by better balancing the measured amount of carbon that is released in the atmosphere, preferably with an equivalent sequestered amount, or possible offset. In the long run, carbon neutrality can be achieved by people and businesses which implement eco-friendly and sustainable programs, or who purchase carbon credits in order to make up for any differences.

Lately, carbon-neutrality has become a trend that is actively being followed by businesses throughout the world. For instance, Apple has recently mentioned that all of its data centres are now fully-powered via renewable energy, thus leading to a considerably lower carbon footprint, which will, in return, have an important impact on the modern society. Additionally, many other organizations are attempting to become carbon neutral, by either improving their eco-friendly practices, or purchasing remaining carbon offsets.

What is a green data center

The eco-friendly trend is also positively disrupting data centres around the world, as managers have become more aware of the environmental impact that inefficient practices can lead to.

To put things better into perspective, in a green data centre, the main goal is to achieve an efficient energy utilization, which can be done in a number of ways. Generally, the efficiency of a data centre can be measured by taking their power utilization effectiveness (PUE) into account, which can be determined by dividing the amount of power that enters a centre, by the power required to run the IT equipment. The total amount of power used includes all IT equipment, alongside lighting, air movement, cooling, and inefficiencies surrounding power distribution within the centre. At this moment in time, at a global level, the average PUE after improving efficiency is of 1.83.

Best practices for green data centres

These are the best practices that data centres take into consideration to further reduce their carbon footprint, and protect the environment.

- Actively measuring power: Equipment power that gives out heat and cooling power need to be actively measured, and estimated in real-time. Doing so will allow data centres to correctly estimate the impact that green changes have brought in terms of power consumption.

- Using efficient USP systems, air-conditioning, back-up systems and lightning systems: Many USP systems come along with significant energy wastage, therefore look for more efficient USP systems; For ACs, it is recommended that automatic fan speed regulation based on how much heat is generated will reduce power consumption; back-up systems should be run in standby.

- Dealing with the cooling infrastructure: to do so, consider reviewing the current cooling capacity of the data centre, installing blanking panels, isolating hot aisles from cold aisles and vice-versa, fixing adaptable/perforated floors, matching cooling requirements of utility areas, removing all obstructions from the cold flow of air.

- Improving networking efficiency: tips include using cables with a smaller diameter and placing them in overhead channels, choosing networking products that support virtualization, considering plug-and-play IT equipment.

- Virtualization: by using IT equipment that supports virtualization (including blade servers, storage networks or multiple processors), managers can eliminate areas that are over-heated – this then allows reducing server utilization as usage can be moved to areas that have unused cooling capacities;

Generally, it is best to upgrade all IT and cooling equipment to the most energy efficient products available on the market. Another essential requirement for a green data centre consists of having sources of renewable energy. While purchasing renewable energy equipment can be expensive, in the long run, this can be truly beneficial to companies, since it basically cuts energy consumption costs to zero. Because of this, it is recommended that data centres looking to achieve the ‘green status’, invest in purchasing solar energy panels, or wind energy equipment. This, of course, depends on the location of the data centre, but most of the times, at least one source of renewable energy will be applicable.

Those who fulfil the green data centre requirements can look towards obtaining a green data centre certification, which will surely prove to be beneficial to the business.

Carbon-neutral hosting in Switzerland

One relevant example of a successful green data centre would be the INTERXION Zurich, in Switzerland. Based on this, the INTERXION is part of the Energy Strategy Group, which is an internal function that is actively dedicated to developing, implementing and governing all energy strategies associated with the data centre. It is supported by senior management, and its main focuses include: intelligent purchase of energy, constantly looking for ways to improve energy efficiency and PUE statistics, and of course, educating customers about the value of energy and why being green represents a core service.

To put things better into perspective, 100% of INTERXION’s energy usage comes from renewable sources. The energy saving design uses arctic winds, and even underground aquifers in the Baltic Sea, which all work together in reducing the carbon footprint. Solar panels have also been installed to provide sustainable solar energy.

Based on everything that has been outlined so far, staying green and reducing carbon footprint is an achievable standard for data centres that all businesses in the industry should attain. Not only does it provide great benefits to the environment, but it also reduces operational costs and energy consumption in the long-term.  

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