The Need to Green the Data Centre
Play a game of word association and if the words ‘Cloud’ and ‘Amazon’ were used, it’s quite probable that ‘Computing’ and ‘Retail/Ecommerce’ would be the first things we’d think of.
And yet, if we were honest, how many of us would connect the two words together and think ‘Cloud Forest’? And why would we? Might be the next question.
In these days of heightened climate change awareness, with so much focus on global warming and net zero targets, cloud forests should really be in the uppermost of our minds.
There are over 700 known cloud forest sites across the planet, across 59 countries from South America to Africa. In 1970, cloud forests covered around 50 million hectares of the Earth’s surface, 11% of all woodland forests. Today it is less than 1%.
Cloud forests play an important role in climate modulation, carbon sequestration and support a hugely diverse ecosystem They are culturally important with many ethnic groups acting as their ‘shepherds’. But despite their benefits, cloud forests are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth due to the combined effects of population growth, land use change and climate change.
Cattle ranching, logging, agriculture and mining have all contributed to the destruction of the forests and surrounding lands. So too, have the oil companies, searching for new oil deposits. This is incredibly damaging, as often large roads are built through untouched forests, in order to build pipelines and extract the oil.
Oil which is used in the main to generate power. Power which is then utilised to electricity.
And this is where the cloud forest meets cloud computing.
The International Energy Agency estimates that 1% (205 TWh) of all global electricity is used by data centres and that by 2025, data centres will consume 20% of the world’s power supply.
Nature Magazine has suggested that the annual electricity demand from data centres could grow to as much as 8,000 TWh by 2030 under worst case scenarios and to as low as 1,100 TWh under the best-case scenarios. The majority of the energy demand within the data centre comes from powering and then cooling the servers.
More efficient technology, and an understanding of thermo processes, has led to a gentle rise in consumption when compared with an exponential rise in computing demand. But more must be done and quickly.
These efficiency gains have come in the main from processor efficiency improvements, reductions in idle power, increased storage drive density and slowing server growth. There is no doubt that the shift to cloud computing, with its hyperscale data centres and virtualisation techniques has accelerated efficiency improvements.
If we are to move away from fossil fuels to protect the destruction of the natural environment – so that it is free to protect us – then we must continually find new sustainable ways to power our ever-growing computing needs.
Think Cloud. Think Computing. Think Forest.