Innovation

All your pictures stored in the cloud are terrible for the environment

Storing data is a dirty business, a new study finds

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Data centers, where all your data stored in the cloud actually ends up, use a lot of energy. About 2 percent of all electricity use comes from data centers, and that number is rising. According to a new report the IT company SuperMicro, only 12 percent of data centers are energy efficient.

SupreMicro surveyed 1,362 data center operators and affiliated IT professionals around the world. Data centers were judged based on what was called “power effectiveness.” This includes power density per rack and whether or not the data center relies on ambient air cooling.

Michael McNerney, SuperMicro vice president of marketing and network security, told IEEE that there are ways to keep a data center adequately cool without wasting a bunch of energy.

“Instead of just calling your HVAC vendor to get a new air conditioning [unit], there are ways to run these data centers a little hotter and reduce the power cooling cost,” McNerney said. “Systems are becoming more efficient, more reliable, and can run at higher temperatures.”

Data centers have actually been moving toward colder temperatures since last year, with the number of facilities running below 24 degrees Celsius increasing by 13 percent in that time. Every half a degree Celsius that a data center runs warmer saves about 5 percent of its energy costs, and newer server equipment allows data centers to run at higher temperatures. Furthermore, free air-cooling equipment designs and the utilization of a single central cooling unit can allow data centers to spend significantly less on air conditioning.

The report claims a company that runs 68 green data center racks can save up to $1.4 million per year when compared to a company that’s not running energy-efficient racks. Despite this, the report found 86 percent of the people running data centers do not consider their environmental impact to be important.

It would appear many of the people running these data centers don’t understand they can save a lot of money and help reduce their environmental impact at the same time. About 22 percent of the people who responded to the survey said “environmental considerations” were too expensive to consider when they were making decisions about how to operate their facility.

Most of these companies are also not adequately consolidating power. About 71 percent of respondents said they run at power densities less than 19 kW per rack. With a multinode server, they could consolidate that power, waste less energy and save money.

See also: Clean Energy Is Not Enough: How Buildings Can Cut Emissions 80% by 2050

Charles Liang, President and CEO of Supermicro, said in a statement that these findings are concerning and that this problem needs to be addressed.

“The 2019 survey findings establish again that consideration of the environmental impact for data center equipment selection continues to be an IT industry challenge,” Liang said. “We are continuing our focus on Resource-Saving Architecture to help end-customers save both energy and hardware acquisition costs while reducing the environmental impact.”

With data centers using more and more power every year and the climate continuing to warm, it’s clear the tech industry needs to address this problem and start making energy efficiency a priority. Not only is it good for the planet, it’s good for their bottom line.

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