Pop quiz time! Which of these impacts the environment?
A.) Posting an Instagram post
B.) Streaming a Netflix movie
C.) Taking a long shower
Answer: all of the above.
It may seem obvious, but our digital footprints consume significant energy and resources. The infrastructure that enables technology, particularly data centers, utilize substantial amounts of water and electricity. Swedish researcher Anders Andrae predicts that by 2025, 20 percent of the world’s energy will go towards digital devices; data centers are responsible for a significant chunk of that figure.
Considerable energy is needed to keep servers cool, dry and running with nearly perfect uptime demands. Historically, much of that electricity comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels. As the number of mobile devices, connected endpoints and apps increases exponentially, the strain on data centers and their need for energy will only grow.
Energy Demands are on the Rise in APAC
These trends are especially acute in the Asia-Pacific region. As the economy in this diverse region is rapidly growing, data centers need to keep up. After all, 55% of all internet users in the world are in APAC—which means data centers need ever-growing amounts of energy to keep up with demand.
Despite increase in demand, access to renewable energy remains limited. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, only 10 percent of all energy in Southeast Asia is currently sourced from renewables. While regional goals include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) aim to increase that figure to 23 percent by 2025—a 10% increase— that may prove tough to reach in a region where 40 percent of all energy today comes from coal.
And then there’s the climate. In this hot and humid part of the world, HVAC units have to work overtime to keep servers at ideal temperatures and moisture levels low 24/7. Solutions that can be applied in cooler and drier parts of the globe, like ambient air cooling, typically can’t be applied in many APAC IT facilities, which is why data centers in the region continue to rely on energy-intensive cooling methods.
Bringing Green Practices to APAC Data Centers
While the picture may seem a bit dire, the good news is the bar is being raised with positive momentum in the APAC data center industry. Increasingly, both the region itself and the local data center providers are taking significant steps to embrace sustainable practices.
Renewable energy sources like solar and hydroelectric are coming online in a big way. As the price of solar drops and as more organizations in the region invest in renewable energy, data centers and others in APAC will be less reliant on fossil fuels.
There is opportunity to make impact on the construction and design side. While traditional campus-style buildings are hugely advantageous from a scale and computing perspective, it’s easier to cool office towers in more humid geographies. In addition, new servers and improved monitoring equipment allow data centers to be kept warmer than before, which means less energy is needed to power HVAC systems.
A great example of these trends in action in APAC is Digital Loyang II (SIN12), the newest Digital Realty data center in Singapore. By leveraging the latest in green design and utilizing innovative cooling methods, SIN12 should have a Power Usage Effectiveness rating of between 1.2 and 1.3; that means that just about all energy consumed by the data center will go towards its core functionality and not ancillary equipment like air conditioners.
Sustainability is a core initiative for many enterprises and the data centers serving them. But, Digital Realty and others are taking concrete steps in both APAC and the rest of the world to dramatically improve practices and fully embrace sustainability in every corner of the enterprise.