Data Center Trends: Connectivity is Key, Green is Inevitable

This May, DataCentres 2012 took place in the Acropolis Convention Centre in Nice, France. The main conclusions which emerged from the various presentations and roundtables were clearly that challenges in the area of connectivity are central to the industry, and that no data center will be able to avoid the need for green entrepreneurship. This event is Europe’s largest content-driven conference for end users, telecommunications specialists, data center operators, cloud users, energy experts, solution providers and others across the sector. During the two days of the conference, there were more than 700 attendees (including myself) catching up on the latest developments in the market. Several experts came to talk about their views on various subjects relating to the data center and cloud sector. Topics such as energy efficiency, cloud evolution, DCIM, market prospects and opportunities were also discussed. The focus of this column on connectivity and green entrepreneurship.

Green in the City

One of the highlighted developments during the conference in Nice was the increasing construction of large single tenant data centers outside the major cities. However, the industry leaders at the event strongly believed that the construction of multi-tenants in (or nearby) major cities will continue, because of their connectivity needs. Direct connection to one of the several major Internet exchanges, such as AMS-IX in the Netherlands, ensures optimum data traffic and this remains of course the main requirement for data centers. Yet during this event, it was emphasized again that connectivity alone is not sufficient to ensure the continuity of a data center. To be able to continue to operate in this sector, green has become essential. Not only to use as USP for marketing and PR purposes, but also to lower costs and to meet (future) legislation.

Green with Renewable Energy

An important side note to green entrepreneurship in the data center industry that was made during DataCentres 2012, was that energy efficiency is not enough. The PUE of a data center is important and therefore, investing in energy efficient technologies is a must. But efficient and economical use of energy is not sufficient. A data center that is energy efficient and has a low PUE can not immediately be labeled as green.

 “Greenwashing” -Undesirable and Unnecessary

The fact that energy efficiency is cost-effective, especially in the long term is evident (partly because green can cause a competitive advantage.) However, to obtain this advantage it needs to be communicated. This is why green data center business remains a hot topic for PR and communication about the company. Yet during DataCentres 2012, it was pointed out that many parties are talking about green business but only a small percentage really act green. Here lies the danger of “green washing,” which companies are found to be guilty of: they manage to deform certain information (i.e. a low PUE) and conceal the other (only using energy from coal plants),  creating a distorted picture of the extent to which social responsibility is taking in to account in the data center. Green is being faked.

Challenges for the Future

The regulations on carbon emissions will results in cost discrepancies in the data center market, because arrangements and measures vary. Where datacenters in some countries encounter high tax rates and levies as punishments when they do not meet the standards as set by their Government, in the Netherlands there are only incentive systems for data centers that take emission reducing measures at the moment. This allows for large international differences in the extent to which data centers operate green and the costs that are calculated for data center space. As we have achieved a high level of energy efficiency, the incentives in the Netherlands puts us in a favorable position at this point, because we can offer our services for a competitive price. Therefore, Dutch entrepreneurs will benefit from learning to think green. Not only in order to benefit from the various tax incentives, but also to remain competitive internationally.

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