Can data centres be sustainable?

6 Feb 2019

Image: © lovelyday12/

Interxion’s Rachel Ryan explores the challenges ahead for data centres adopting sustainable energy.

The growth of cloud computing means the number of data centres is climbing globally. Energy is a fundamental component for data centres to be able to deliver services to customers and this means the industry needs to be committed to looking for new ways to optimise energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and cut waste.

Data centres consume high levels of energy to power the IT equipment contained within them and extract the heat they produce. As a result of the Paris Agreement on climate change, data centre providers in the EU are increasingly aware of the responsibilities on them to source all operational electricity from renewable sources.

At a global level, this has seen the establishment of groups such as The Green Grid where data centres are coming together to respond as an industry to the energy issue. Initiatives coming from organisations such as The Green Grid include establishing metrics and providing frameworks for organisations to realise operational efficiency.

Ireland’s energy targets need industry support

Ireland has ambitious targets to reach in terms of energy generated from renewable sources by 2020. As a sector which consumes a significant amount of electricity, the data centre industry here needs to rise to meet this objective and help Ireland on its journey.

Ireland has a thriving data centre industry with innovation at its core. As it continues to grow, the industry continuously moves to introduce innovative thinking to its design and building process. Data centre providers are implementing measures such as introducing energy-efficient design elements, maximising free air cooling, virtualisation ensuring that servers are maximised for resource sharing so fewer new servers are required, and working with energy providers to improve grid efficiency.

From the infrastructure in the building to the energy it uses, data centres across Europe are making pledges to use renewable energy where possible. Across its three data centres and in the planning for its newest data centre, Interxion is committed to using 100pc renewable energy.

As a hub for colocation, data centre providers in Ireland are working with planners and Government to manage the sector’s growing energy needs. But this issue is not unique to data centres. The increase in the internet of things (IoT) at every level throughout society will place an even greater demand on our energy resources, with no sign of slowing down.

However, IoT could also bring benefits to energy consumption. A recent Host in Ireland report highlighted that artificial intelligence could assist in power management with a “system that continuously monitors conditions and workloads”, allowing the data centre to optimise its energy needs as they change.

As the industry grows, we need to ensure that any energy used is renewable and meets Ireland’s long-term objectives. Data centre providers have begun to recognise that their focus needs to go beyond energy consumption, with the creation of metrics for issues such as carbon, water and compute efficiency.

By Rachel Ryan

Rachel Ryan is marketing manager at Interxion Ireland, where she leads marketing communication strategies, content development and online advertising as well as pioneering marketing campaigns.