What is a green data centre?

June 16 2021, by James Rabey | Category: Government
Canberra data centres | Green data centres

The Australian Government can strengthen its environmental credentials through utilising green data centres, but what are green data centres, and how can they reduce government carbon emissions?

Data centres and cloud computing reduce carbon emissions.

The tectonic shift of computing within private data centres to large-scale cloud and Canberra data centre providers has greatly contributed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions over the last ten years. The key factor in this reduction is the greater efficiencies of aggregating computing power within data centre and cloud providers.

Research suggests that, if a larger organisation switches even one of their major enterprise applications to the cloud, they could save an average of 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide within five years, which is the equivalent of taking almost 6,000 cars off the road.

A recent forecast by IDC shows that the continued shift of computing to cloud and data centre providers could prevent the release of one billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between 2021 to 2024.

What is a green data centre?

Green data centres go further to reduce their environmental footprint. A green data centre is an enterprise-class computing facility that is designed and operated on the green computing principles below that are applied throughout the lifecycle of the data centre:

  • Energy efficient – minimise power consumption, both for primary computing infrastructure and supporting electronic resources, cooling, backup and lighting.
  • Green design – ICT infrastructure and construction materials are selected on their low energy consumption, water utilisation and environmental impact. Reuse, recycle equipment with minimal e-waste.
  • Green energy – electricity generation from wind and solar rather than from fossil fuels.

Green data centre certifications and metrics.

There are a number of standards and certifications for building sustainability (whole building approach) and energy efficiency that are employed in the design and operation of green data centres. Global examples include ISO 14001 and LEED, and locally we have NABERS.

ISO 14001 is an international standard that specifies requirements for an environmental management system (EMS). The standard provides a framework for organisations to follow rather than setting performance requirements.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a whole-building certification programme developed by the US Green Business Council that covers energy efficiency and source, internal air quality, water usage and building materials selection and disposal.

Closer to home NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) is a national government program that provides a rating system to measure and accredit the environmental performance of buildings and tenancies. The system uses a 6-star scale rating system to measure power and water consumption, waste efficiency as well as indoor environmental quality. Buildings are independently assessed and the program is audited by the government.

A number of metrics have been developed to assess power efficiency in data centres, but the most frequently used metric is the Power Usage Effectiveness ratio which was developed by The Green Grid, a global consortium focused on improving energy efficiency within data centres.

Power Usage Effectiveness

PUE = Total Facility Power / IT Equipment Power
This ratio calculates the amount of power a data centre uses to deliver power to IT equipment. The ideal 1:1 ratio describes a data centre that doesn’t use any additional power apart from powering IT equipment. When the ratio was first introduced in 2007 the industry average was between 2.5-3.0; the average more recently is around 1.7, with state-of-the-art facilities achieving 1.59.

About Macquarie Telecom

Macquarie Telecom recognises the environmental and financial benefits of energy-efficient IT operations, and we continue to revise and implement our Green IT strategy. We are focusing on green technology and IT energy consumption in our Intellicentre data centres in Canberra to establish a low carbon footprint hosting environment.

We continue to investigate ways to minimise our energy use and environmental impact, such as reducing the number of idle processors at night and focusing on vendor hardware that uses less power when processors are actually idle. From our efforts we have achieved Power Usage Effective ratios well below the industry standard, with our IC5 Canberra data centre achieving a 1.37 PUE, and data centre IC3 achieving 1.28 – 19% lower than other state-of-the-art data centres.