“Sustainable Development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to fulfill their needs” The revolutionary Agenda 21 of the Rio declaration has changed the course of future, when more than 178 countries has agreed to promote this concept at various levels: local, regional, national and international. And on this line, the United Nations Global Compact was formed for supporting the local network of multinational and home grown companies to enforce strict environmental, social and economic standards in their products and work. Triple Bottom Line, the brainchild of UNGC and is followed by the top companies across the globe, strives to account all the domains that is beyond the monetary gains and losses. And one of the three pillars (no points for guessing) is environmental responsibility.
Now technology is improving day by day to make our lives easier, keeping sustainability in mind. Increasingly the companies have realized that environment cannot take a backseat if they want to co-develop with the planet and the consumers. In such a scenario, IT industry, a major sector of development, has to step up their game by going green. One of the early improvements that a research has predicted can start from the data centres. In the report Data Centre 2025: Exploring the Possibilities commissioned by Emerson Network Power, a witty remark by Andy Lawrence, vice president of Datacenter Technologies and Eco-efficient IT at 451 Research sums up the present scenario of data centres in today’s world: “On the road, we see sports cars and family cars; we see buses and we see trucks. They have different kinds of engines, different types of seating and different characteristics in terms of energy consumption and reliability. We are going to see something similar to that in the data center world. In fact that is already happening, and I expect it to continue,”
The report, a compilation of opinions and views of over 800 data centre experts, contains an excellent set of predictions as to what new can we see in the next decade. One of course is the shift to cloud services from the dedicated servers big companies swear by. Other than the obvious benefits of virtual environment and easy access of the server, cloud services takes care of optimum utilization of resources and demands very little infrastructure or technical expertise. Upgradation/modifications are done in minutes and before you blink your cloud server is as good as new. But importantly, this method is greener as compared to physical dedicated servers. Maintenance of any device, especially as task intensive and 24/7 on-demand device as servers, is a huge deal. Other than the obvious over-heating, under-utilization costs more dearly than you think. Not only monetarily, but carbon footprints increase as more technology is put in to maintain both your utilized and under-utilized memory in the servers. Whereas, in cloud servers you pay for what you use, both environmentally and economically. Less demands, better management are some of the positives that make cloud server THE next big leap for IT industry towards sustainable development, as experts have predicted. And if this benefits you in aforementioned ways, it won’t need time to realize that IT industry is killing two birds with one stone: environmental and economic responsibilities under TBL. And some companies fortunately have realized this: the penetration of cloud services is very much in line with the Cisco’s recent Global Cloud Index, which revealed that cloud workloads represent around 46% of current total data centre workloads, and that it will reach 63% by 2017.
Another forecast that the experts have predicted is increased use of renewable energy resources for electrical energy to data centres. Data centres are the most power intensive devices in the whole of IT industry. Switching over to renewable energy can drastically reduce the carbon footprints and benefit overall. Leading in the race is Apple which recently acquired their own hydro-power plant and creating solar firms for electrical supply in offices and industries. Following the pack are other IT giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook which are in process of acquiring wind farms and solar panel fields to power their data centres. According to the report, a variety of renewable sources will be used to provide electrical power to data centres with solar energy at the lead, followed by equal amount of nuclear, natural gas and wind energy. Most data centre managers (65%) said hyper scale facilities will be mostly powered by private power generation. This will not only decrease carbon footprints or the pressure on the already depleting non-renewable resources, employment will increase for skilled/unskilled personnel maintain these plants.
In conclusion, IT industry which has long been a culprit for most of the environmental degradation and a headache for companies can change their reputation only with a little innovation. These suggestions are based on a true view, but they won’t work on their own. Renewable resources need a lot of maintenance (as if data centres aren’t already a menace) and security needs to be better in cloud services than what is currently offered. Moreover, shifting to DCIM (Data Centre Infrastructure Management) may cut cost by decreasing the need of personnel to maintain the centre, but the bad sign is that employment in the data centre industry is becoming increasingly precarious. Nearly half of the data centre experts believe that the need for skilled staff to manage data centres will diminish in near future. Some have gone even further to say that they will retire till 2025 due to lessening of demands of skilled personnel. As usual, taking care of all the three parameters in triple bottom line doesn’t look remotely possible. Social responsibility HAS to bear the brunt of it, ranging from lay-off of employees for DCIM to a far-fetched theory of displacement of locals for setting up of solar/wind farms and dams for hydro energy.
Hence, even if data centres complying with the Triple Bottom Line framework is not really a rosy picture, it is definitely more positive than what exists in the present. Companies should take a cue from the report to integrate green technology in their data centres to optimize the performance without compromising on sustainable development. The Bottom Line that is missed can be coped up in other levels but that shouldn’t become a hindrance to keep the idea altogether aside. As the idiom goes, “When there is a will, there is a way”. So the key to the great future is the will, the way can be found anyhow after it.Tags: