The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to transform entire industries by creating never-before-imagined efficiencies and providing new business insights.

It also has a dirty little secret.

A paper published in November 2017 by U.S. researchers estimates that the information and communications technology (ICT) industry could produce up to 3.5 percent of global emissions by 2020 and up to 14 percent by 2040. The researchers forecast that IT-related power consumption will triple in the next five years as the IoT continues to grow and 1 billion more people come online in developing countries.

In an October 2017 update to his 2016 peer-reviewed study, Swedish researcher Anders Andrae found that the ICT industry could consume 20 percent of the world’s electricity and generate 5.5 percent of all carbon emissions by 2025. Data centers alone would be responsible for 3.2 percent of emissions.

The ICT industry has often touted its ability to conserve energy by reducing travel and increasing efficiency through automation. In addition, consumer devices are becoming more energy efficient through power-saving architectures and management tools. However, none of this is sufficient to offset spiraling increases in data volumes and Internet traffic. Growing numbers of IoT devices —sensors, building automation systems, wearables and more — will also boost energy consumption.

Hyperscale data center operators are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions by adopting clean energy technologies. In its recent report, “Clicking Clean: Who is Winning the Race to Build a Green Internet,” Greenpeace gave Apple a clean energy index rating of 83 percent, with seven of its data centers powered totally by renewable resources. Facebook received a score of 67 percent, and has committed to reaching 100 percent.

Smaller data center operators are also moving to reduce energy consumption. A new report from Transparency Market Research forecasts that the green data center market will see a compound annual growth rate of 30.8 percent through 2022. The market encompasses power backup and cooling systems as well as servers, storage, security appliances and network gear.

Operators have a lot to gain by implementing green data center strategies. The primary benefit is reduced costs, but energy-efficient technologies also help organizations meet regulatory requirements and support corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Reducing energy consumption in the data center requires a strategic approach and a blend of techniques. Because cooling is the biggest energy hog, aisle-containment systems and efficient cooling technologies can drive significant savings. Smart power distribution units (PDUs) enable operators to monitor power at the device level so they can take steps to correct environmental or performance issues.

The location of the data center also plays a role. For example, Iceland has an abundant supply of geothermal energy, and Ireland’s climate provides free cooling most of the year.

(Marcus Doran, VP and General Manager of Rahi Systems Europe, discussed the Irish data center market in a recent Data Center Frontier article.)

The data center infrastructure experts at Rahi Systems can help you develop your green strategy and select the right solutions to increase energy efficiency. As the number of Internet-connected devices continues to grow, it’s more important than ever to take steps to reduce the carbon footprint of data centers.


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