Building sustainable edge data centres

Schneider Electric – Around the world, awareness of sustainability is growing by leaps and bounds.

Enterprises and individuals realise that more can be done for a greener future and that the sector must unite and work together to address the energy dilemma. And given the central role of our digital economy today, the onus is on the data centre industry to lead by example.

Setting an example

The data centre industry has come a long way over the last decade. Pankaj Sharma of Schneider Electric observed that data centres operated at a highly inefficient PUE of 1.8 just a decade ago.

Since then, innovations around data centre design, cooling, and data centre management had culminated in an 80 per cent reduction in energy inefficiency - giving data centres a PUE of just 1.17.

Further improvements are on the horizon, with innovations such as data centre liquid cooling and better grid interactions between the data centre and the power grid.

The data centre sector is evolving rapidly, however. As demand rises for data to be processed quicker and nearer to the point of data generation or consumption, local edge data centres are increasingly favoured.

The result is edge data centres deployed by sectors such as commercial, industrial, and telecommunication providers.

More needs to be done

It also means that a lot more can be done to address the evolving data centre industry.

Based on internal projections at Schneider Electric, energy consumption by edge data centres is expected to exceed 3,000 TWh over the next 20 years. The amount of energy is equivalent to the energy used by 275 million households.

Moreover, new digital innovations around big data and artificial intelligence demanding more power than before, as well as the rise of micro data centres – most of which are located at the edge, the figure is expected to further increase.

And with 7.5 million new micro data centres expected to be installed by 2025, the global footprint at peak power stands at a staggering 120 GW for edge facilities alone.

According to Schneider Electric's Sharma, this adds up to between 450,000 to 600,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. Sustainability is more important than ever, and more must be done to establish sustainable data centres.

Doing data centres better

Below are some considerations to consider when deploying edge data centres at scale.

• Standardisation and integration: Most edge deployments have limited or no employees, which means that good reference designs and digital design tools are more important than ever. Schneider Electric's 6U Wall Mount EcoStruxure Micro Data Centre is a great example of standardisation and integration.

• Better efficiency: Lower costs and increased efficiency don't happen by default. Data insights, benchmarking, and predictive analytics are key differentiators to drive greater efficiency.

• Monitoring and management: Things can go wrong at any time. EcoStruxure IT Software & Services suite enables administrators to monitor and manage their infrastructure directly, through a partner, or have Schneider manage it directly around the clock.

As digital transformation initiatives accelerate, sustainability remains a vital linchpin in our digital-centric world. By pushing on the limit of efficient engineering and innovating, successful, and sustainable business operations are entirely within the realm of possibility.

Bhagwati Prasad, Vice President, Business Development, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric