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Do data centers and sustainability have to be at odds?


One of the largest contributors to enterprise emissions today is the data center, which consume a huge amount of electricity – usually powered by burning fossil fuels. Globally, data centers are estimated to use between 200 terawatt hours (TWh) and 500 TWh annually. This is more than the energy consumption of some countries.

While sustainability is a hot topic amongst C-suite leaders today, our recent research shows that translating this ambition to reality is proving difficult – particularly when it comes to environmentally friendly IT. We know that 50% of firms say they have an enterprise-wide sustainability policy, but only 18% have a comprehensive green IT strategy with well-defined goals and target timelines. By green IT, we mean an environmental sustainability-focused approach to the design, usage and disposal of computer hardware, information technologies, software applications, and accompanying business processes.

Data centers are an organization’s second largest consumer of energy, so they are an important part of the move to green IT.

More sustainable concepts are already in play across the world. Large players like Microsoft, AWS, and Google Cloud are already exploring how to reduce their carbon footprint. Google’s Deep Mind subsidiary, for example, has successfully reduced the energy used for cooling its data centers by 40% using artificial intelligence.

Capgemini is also a leader in this space, having investigated, designed and implemented sustainable data center initiatives for over a decade. In 2010, we created Merlin, which set a new global standard for energy efficiency, with an industry-leading Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating.

Green is good for business
Reducing the environmental impact of data centers is not just good for the environment, it benefits the bottom line too. Some 35% of the energy consumed by data centers is in powering cooling equipment. Therefore, any initiative that can reduce data center cooling will make a significant contribution to carbon reduction.

We know that machine learning can help to optimize cooling systems, while also promising high-cost savings. Similarly, these technologies can help to optimize operational efficiency while also improving sustainability outcomes. By analysing workflows in real-time, machine learning can reduce the power usage of idle infrastructure, leading to cost-savings of up to 9%.
While reducing data center energy usage is important, organizations must remember their alternate option too: the cloud. Migrating to on-demand public cloud-based systems from in-premise data centers is a promising way to reduce environmental impact. It has the highest carbon reduction potential, along with cost savings of up to 19%.

Designing the future
Of course, to have enterprise-wide impact, data centers are just one part of a bigger green IT picture. To truly make a difference, enterprises need an in-depth strategy, governance mechanisms, and the ability to operationalize green IT.
This is where Capgemini can help. We combine the principles of green IT and innovation to help our clients create and implement a roadmap for more sustainable technology operations, including harnessing the power of the cloud and optimizing their data center operations.

Our approach has proven successful at many of the world’s largest enterprises. We have the experience, methodologies, tools, and partners to help you where you need support the most: improving sustainability while minimizing the complexity of transformation. From planning through to the execution of your transformation initiative, we can assist you every step of the way.

To find out more about how we can help you, visit here