BY Sameer Cassim 3 MINUTE READ

Data centres – or DCs to those in the know – are utility-hungry installations that require always-on supplies of power and cooling. This means electricity – possibly as much as 2% of the world’s energy – and often, it means water. The amount of energy consumed by the world’s DCs – the repositories for billions of gigabytes of information – will treble in the next decade, putting an enormous strain on energy supplies and dealing a hefty blow to efforts to contain global warming, say experts. 

Understanding the magnitude of the environmental impact and designed for future growth, Internet Solutions (IS) will open its first green prefabricated DC in, Rosebank, Johannesburg in November 2018. Sameer Cassim, R&D Systems Architect at IS, talks us through the future of environmentally-friendly data management.

As analysts estimate as many as 50 billion devices to be connected by 2020, with some stats pointing to more than 100 billion a further five years down the line, new research suggests that DCs will be one of the biggest energy consumers on the planet, beating many countries’ energy consumption levels. The ICT industry will be responsible for up to 3.5% of global emissions by 2020, with this potentially escalating to 14% by 2040. Researchers say this will be directly related to the fact that the DC sector could be using 20% of all available electricity in the world by 2025, on the back of the astronomical amounts of data being created at a faster speed than ever before seen.

The need for green DCs is very real. 

Every element of the Internet Solutions Parklands DC was built with energy efficiency in mind, and minimum environmental impact. Firstly, modularity and flexibility is a key theme across the Parklands build, allowing the DC to grow and change over time and with demand. The DC modules are prefabricated, standardised building blocks that can be easily configured and quickly moved as needed, and are designed to optimise consumption at every level, so they can intelligently scope and redesign each section based on current power, cooling, security and network requirements. 

At Parklands, IS only fits it out and powers it up if they know it’s actually going to be used. Another first for DCs in South Africa is the fact that we’ve used a centralised modular uninterrupted power supply (UPS) system, which allows them to immediately realise a 5% electricity saving, equating to the power consumption of approximately 24 average households a month. 

IS’s Bree Street DC in Cape Town, online since 2007, is an example of legacy infrastructure that was designed with water chillers when the resource was plentiful. Today, the Parklands DC cooling system is water-free, so it can run unhindered in the likely case of a drought. They’ve selected the Direct Expansion Cooling System as it’s modular, allowing them to fit as they need, and it is purpose built for high temperature changes, so it is global warming ready. IS monitors and controls their use of cooling by measuring the temperature at multiple points to distribute just the right amount of air to equipment. Their cooling systems employ Digital Scroll Compressors and adjustable speed fans that match the compressor output to the exact cooling needs, and allow for capacity modulation, minimising the need for over or under consumption. 

Always prepared for load shedding, IS has installed generators with a Triple Change Over solution, which is an intelligent method of controlling and sharing the load between the backup generators versus using two generators simultaneously, assuring a 15% diesel saving. Considering on-site generators can consume up to 150 litres of diesel an hour, that’s a big saving too. 

The better the view of your energy consumption, the better your planning abilities. IS’s DC operations team is fully informed with state-of-the-art analytics and monitoring systems that enable them to closely observe and investigate efficiency at every point of the DC chain, so no element will be over or under performing, but always operating at peak efficiency.

The internet service provider (ISP) sector is critical to the development of renewable energy, and IS remains committed to reducing energy consumption across our DCs. As an ISP, they will never stop looking at new ways to reduce the quantity of energy and resources needed to run their DCs. The benefits are threefold – they keep the cost of powering the servers down, dramatically reduce their impact on the environment, and ultimately, pass the savings on to clients.