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How we can implement sustainability in IT industry?


Sustainability in IT

Digitisation in almost every field around the world is raising demand for more and more IT Infrastructure, where the collected data from all sectors can be stored, processed and sent  back to users or passed on to central location or distributed in some other region where it can be utilised further for some business outcome. Now a days when IoT is on boom, we are connecting more and more devices to network and collecting useful information for health support, logistics tracking, asset tracking and so on which gave birth to Bigdata and also to edge data centres distributed across regions near end users for low latency. This huge requirement is creating great business opportunity for Data Centre operators at the same time processing such large set of data in very short time needs power hungry storage and processing devices. And that creates demand for huge power not only to run these IT equipment but also to maintain suitable environment in Data Centre so that our equipment run for 24X7, 365days with minimum downtime. This needs additional power for cooling and maintaining relative humidity inside the Data Centres and good air quality which are expected for maintaining the health of electronic components inside storage and computing devices or servers. While more and more Data Centres are being built with megawatts of power, some where we become responsible to burn more and more fossil fuel to get the electrical power unless we have options to get renewable energy sources, most commonly solar, wind and tidal power based on availability.

Though every organisation is working towards #sustainability, but every day we are adding to more carbon emission as we add more devices to our data centre or even if we host them on cloud. It becomes our responsibility to ensure in every way to minimise the carbon emission which we also call carbon foot print, whether it is emitted directly or indirectly due to our day to day operations.

Let us have a look on some facts which we should not ignore while we are increasing our Data Centre foot print to meet the growing digital business demand. When we say increasing the Data Centre foot print, it include our on premises Data Centre, devices/racks hosted in COLO Data Centre and services hosted on cloud. When we are accounting our ownership for reporting carbon footprint we should look on below aspects and more.

1- How much carbon is being released by burning any kind of fossil fuel within our organisation, to produce backup electricity, steam, heat etc.

2- What options we have to minimise this emission by switching to renewable energy sources available around us. Monitor your Renewable Energy Factor (REF) along with PUE of your Data Center.

3- Check how for how much carbon emission you are responsible when your resources are working from home and consuming electricity for office work.

4- For how much carbon emission we are responsible by purchasing electric power, heat or steam etc from any outside supplier who are burning fossil fuel in their premises to provide these services.

5- Are we exploring options to move to renewable energy source to minimise above emission by pushing our supplier to adopt renewable energy or switching to other suppliers who use renewable energy source to provide same services.

6- How we can reduce the demand of such services so as to reduce the carbon foot print at supplier's premises and so our contribution.

7- Account for carbon emission in the process of extracting so much amount of fossil fuel, processing, refining and delivering till our doorsteps, which we are using as mentioned in point#1.

8- How much carbon is emitted by your cab operators when they pick and drop your employees.

9- Account for carbon emission done by personal vehicles used by your employees while they commute from home to office and office to home.

10- For how much carbon emission the organisation is responsible if your employees go for business travel by air, train, bus, cab etc.

11- If you have hosted some racks and devices in COLO Data Centre, ask for carbon emission report for which your organisation is responsible by hosting in their premises. Give priority to COLO provider running on renewable energy source.

12- If any of the services are hosted on public cloud like Google, Azure, AWS and other small players, get the carbon footprint report for your hosted instances and account that also. Now a days every cloud players are sharing dashboard to check your portion of carbon emission based on instances hosted. Give priority to cloud provider running on renewable energy source.

13- When you are procuring any product and it lands at your doorsteps, you become responsible for carbon emission happened during the complete manufacturing cycle of the product and delivery till your door steps. This includes carbon emitted when the raw material was extracted, transported and converted into a single component till it's transported to manufacturer and assembled in form of finished good which you procured. For IT products one of the best location to rate the product you buy is EPEAT, managed by Global Electronic Council, where most of the IT products are registered and rated as Bronze, Silver and Gold. 
There are two set of criteria to be fulfilled for EPEAT ecolabel rating i.e. "Required" and "Optional" criteria. For getting a product registered with EPEAT, required criteria should be met first. 
Then based on optional criteria which represents manufacturer's commitment towards environmental and social performance, the products are rated under these three categories. For more details you may refer this link on EPEAT and refer their Policy Manual.

14- Your procurement team shall also compare products while raising order and see which product of same configuration has lower power consumption and EPEAT may also help them to evaluate the products.

15- Ask every manufacturers of product or the service provider like ISPs (Internet Service Providers), power distributors, AMC vendors or any agency attached with your organisation, what they are doing for sustainability, what are their organisation level target, how much they have achieved till now, what is their leadership intent on sustainability goals, are they ready to invest on achieving the goals? etc. Remember your client or customer will also ask same questions to you while giving business, as this is global initiative to save earth for our future generation hence every one has to participate on this initiative else we will fail.

16- Minimise PUE by increasing PAC set point of your data centre so as to consume less power.

17- Most of the time while working on Data Centre sustainability, we try to improve the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) by improving on cooling power considering IT load is mandatory to run as that is our business. But we miss one important fact that we had been using Silicon semiconductors at every power conversion stage AC to DC and DC to DC (different voltage levels) which are approximately 90% efficient which means 10% is lost in heat. 
Earlier we had option for Germanium semiconductors but could not become popular due to higher cost. 
GaN (Gallium nitride) semiconductors may help achieve up to 97% efficiency which means we could utilise 50-70% of the lost electrical power and off course will reduce heat which will further reduce overall cooling load of your Data Centre.

18- Check how much carbon is emitted during e-waste treatment of retired products from your organisation as we are responsible for whole life cycle of the product being deployed.

19- Now a days manufacturers are participating in circular economy wherein manufacturers are taking back EOL/retired products and reusing their components as long as possible in new products, which reduces our contribution to carbon emission which may have occurred for manufacturing that same components starting from extraction of raw material from ore till manufacturing that component. Participate in such initiatives rather than e-wasting.

20- Follow the 5R principal i.e. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Repair. This 5R principal is not something that shall be implemented at organisation level only, but this shall be implemented on every individual level to support for this noble cause.

21- Try to reuse the heat generated through operations of your data centre which is huge in quantity.

22 - Try to minimise or optimise your digital data as storing every bit consume some power and there is carbon released somewhere to generate electricity.

23- Look for revisiting your organisation level data retention policy, especially the duration for which old data are retained and how.

24- Identity frequently used data (Hot Data) and rarely used data (Cold Data). Store cold data in low quality storage which have lower speed drives and consume less power.

25- Monitoring your Data Centre with a DCIM tool will be a good choice to have check on your equipment power consumption and environment which can give opportunity to improve on cooling power and better rack power utilisation.

Last but not the least, while we talk about sustainability, normally we think of carbon emission footprint for which we are responsible directly or indirectly. But remember #sustainability is not only linked with air pollution, but managing complete ecosystem of earth to sustain life for our future generations. We have to account for our participation in water pollution, soil pollution and any other natural resource we are using which may deplete in some years and future generation may have to strive for it or their excessive use may have adverse effect on our ecosystem in short term or long term. How much effort we are putting to minimise these pollution or to recover the damage which we already made to ecosystem.

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