Datacentre operators must prepare for emissions regulations and power use

The datacentre sector must overhaul its way of sustainability in preparation for regulations around electricity use and discharges, colocation provider Digital Realty has warned. Talking to Computer Weekly, Ricky Cooper, vice president for Europe Middle East and Africa (Emea) at Digital Realty, said the datacentre sector’s emission levels are simply at a stage where the business can anticipate regulators to sit up and take notice.

“If you examine the future with driverless cars, the web of stuff as well as the increase of related devices in medicine, you are going to want more datacentres. The sector is exploding right now, but we are just at the beginning,” said Cooper.
“We have got higher emissions in relation to the airline business now, and that is already closely controlled. So it is simply an issue of time before the same occurs to the datacentre sector – But how do you prepare for that?
Datacentre operators have come under growing pressure recently, from the likes of Greenpeace, while taking steps to enhance the total energy efficiency of the websites to increase their reliance on renewable electricity sources they run.
Some have warned the business about addressing the quantity of electricity datacentres use up, from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers about the risk of energy supply issues later on in the light of cautions.

Energy tagging scheme
Through the engagement together with the European Datacentre Association of Digital Realty, Cooper said he’s mindful that datacentre energy efficiency is a talking point in Brussels, but – to date – talks have focused on the storage and server side of things.
He said European regulators have mooted the concept of introducing an energy labelling scheme – similar to the one used to denote the electricity consumption of home apparatus – for storage and servers.
The problem with this particular notion, however, is that it wouldn’t consider the other things which lead towards datacentre power consumption, which is what an effective bit of regulation would have to do, he added.
While these forms of regulatory problems are being worked through, datacentre operators should think about taking preemptive actions to boost emission and the energy efficiency of their facilities.
“I do believe it’s unavoidable new regulations will come into force, and also you want to at least think about it as you are building out your datacentres and strategy, as you may spend lots of cash this year, and then some new regulation comes in and suddenly you must alter everything,” Cooper said.
“There’s always a price with regulation, and that is the big thing everyone must remember. Whether that is regulation around pollution or whatever, it may be exceedingly expensive for the datacentre business.”
Local environmental pressure
The urgency for reform is more severe among UK operators with aging facilities that must be updated. Where inner city facilities are involved, selling on those websites could provide a monetary way of building more efficient facilities outside of built up, metropolitan areas to them.

“There are really new buildings coming online all of the time, but- in just about any firm’s portfolio – there are plenty of buildings which are 10 years old that customers are leaving. How do you receive the best use out of them and economically revamp those websites? That is a challenge,” said Cooper.
“The great thing about inner city websites is they often hold their property worth very well. So repurposing them is not such a difficulty, and you can cancel the price of constructing a datacentre outside of the city because of that.”
As reported by Computer Weekly, business watcher Ian Bitterlin proposed the notion – at the Datacentre Summit South occasion on 10 February 2015 – of building facilities in the cellars of offices and resorts for heat reuse functions.
Cooper proposed there was mileage in the idea – especially if there’s possibility for preexisting, inner city datacentres to have part of their buildings.
“These sorts of websites are already quite well linked, and that is what you are trying to find from a datacentre with the takeoff of the web of stuff and everything else. Key to reacting to that will be having many more linked buildings,” he said.
Building for company increase
In terms of how Digital Realty means to react to the boom in demand for datacentre capacity the web of stuff (IoT) and other business trends will likely cause, Cooper said the company had formerly pursued a purchase-and-build growth strategy.

The business lately found itself at the center of unconfirmed reports that it may be on the cusp of getting competing colocation supplier Interxion. In snapping up TelecityGroup the firm formerly lost out to Equinix.
Cooper declined to comment on the Interxion rumours, except to say the organisation was steadfastly focused on pushing ahead with incorporating Telx which it got for $1.89bn in July 2015.
“The victor going forward will be datacentre supplier that could provide a world-wide, associated portfolio of datacentres. Previously, we’ve constructed and obtained; going forward, it is not a thing we can comment on at this time – but the sector as a whole is merging,” said Cooper.
“The focus for us right now is incorporating Telx and doing it well, worldwide, before we begin looking at anything else.”