While technology can improve companies’ environmental, health and safety performance it can also produce a huge environmental footprint of its own.
A key cause of this is data centers, which enable cloud computing and thus the massive amounts of on-demand data and analytics that lead to more efficient manufacturing, water and waste management and other processes. In addition to using massive amounts of energy — Lux Research says data centers use more than 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually — data centers guzzle huge amounts of water to support their cooling needs.
Brian Gamble, IM coordinator North America at Veolia Global Enterprises, knows this first-hand.
“IT is one of the largest consumers of electricity so reducing our company’s carbon footprint falls heavily on our group,” he said. “A typical data center is inherently not efficient or effective in power usage.”
So in looking for a more efficient solution, Veolia Water Technologies (VWT) chose data center services provider IO.
“Our research found that IO does not operate typical data centers,” Gamble explained. “They are the leaders in energy efficiency among colocation providers. Our customers want to see us as an example in reducing carbon footprint and IO allows us to demonstrate we are being environmentally responsible in our data center operations.”
Environmental Leader caught up with Gamble to discuss how Veolia is using its data center strategy to advance sustainability goals by reducing the carbon footprint of its IT operations. Below are his edited comments.
Q: What role do IT and data centers play in VWT’s larger sustainability goals?
A: Sustainability is a critical business goal of VWT, so it is the role of IT to identify where inefficiencies exist. This initiative often leads us to our own hosted infrastructure. Choosing the right data center partner and cloud provider helps address these innate inefficiencies.
Q: What was VWT’s previous data center services set-up and what prompted VWT to look for something different?
A: Currently, we have server rooms at each of our business units, which hosts our business systems and applications. We decided to explore colocation as a way to both decrease the environmental impact of this configuration and to centralize common services starting with using our IO space as a disaster recovery hot-site for our US business units. With the success of our first colocation project, we are currently looking into consolidating and relocating potentially 30 more racks to IO.
Q: What factors did you consider when evaluating data center services with the goal of improving sustainability?
A: Quite simply, we looked into data centers that have the lowest PUE [power usage effectiveness] rating and those that could improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of our data center operations.
Q: Why did VWT choose IO?
A: We chose IO because of their modular approach to delivering industry low PUE, and their capability to provide so many data points on their infrastructure. Quite honestly, we found IO’s concept technically superior to the competition.
Q: With IO, you are using modular data center technology. What is this and how is this technology more sustainable as compared to traditional data center approaches?
A: Traditional data centers retrofit large open spaces with power and cooling systems, and then try to sell rack space. To operate a rack, or row of racks, at a constant temperature in wide-open spaces is very inefficient. Typical data centers need to be near full capacity to deliver lower PUE.
IO’s modular approach allows just a single rack to be efficiently cooled by shrinking the space and deploying custom spot cooling components. It is technically a micro-datacenter within a datacenter.
Q: What financial and/or environmental savings have you seen since switching to IO?
A: Having only relocated our disaster recovery platform to IO, we have still reduced nearly 30 KWH of electricity consumption every 12 months.
Q: How much do IO’s data center services cost compared to other typical data centers and how quickly do you expect to see a return on investment?
A: We have found that IO’s data center service costs are 10 to 15 percent lower than the typical data centers we evaluated. Given the services we’ve centralized and the hosting of our disaster recovery hot-site at IO, we anticipate a return on our investment by the end of this year.
Q: What’s next for VWT as IT looks to continue to make more progress in sustainability?
A: In the short term, we are looking to move more of our racks to IO as we have found a partner who shares the commitment to sustainable technologies and practices as we have. In the long term, we are continuing the migration of our business systems to the cloud and are collecting more sensor data (IoT) to improve our operational efficiency.