IMPACT OF DATA CENTERS ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Data centers over time, have proven to be very useful to the technologically upgraded world. They house a vast number of servers, computer storage devices and other equipments required by the IT sector. They have reduced
our commute times, lessened our reliance on physical copies of documents, and increased the speed of connectivity.
Technology comes with its own benefits and flaws. These data centers run full time and hence consume a lot of energy. Analysts have confirmed that out of all the energy that is supplied, about 90% is wasted.
Investigative reports by analysts on the top notch IT companies and web hosting providers confirm the wastage of energy. It has been seen that some of the servers in these data centers were not being used, hence consuming unnecessary energy. These companies have not taken any measures to overcome such problems.
Apart from the energy wastage, data centers also contribute to landfill contamination, green house gas emissions, air pollution, and accumulation of e-waste. The carbon foot-print created by these companies and their data centers has reached unimaginable limits.
Reports from the National Data Center Energy Efficiency Information Program (NDCEEIP) show that in the year 2006, data centers have consumed 61 billion kilowatt hour. This number nearly doubled the following year, and has only been increasing every year. This statistics is of the data centers in the U.S. alone. The world-wide data center energy consumption is definitely way beyond statistics.
These data centers have also acquired farmlands in the rural areas, which is otherwise used for agriculture. For e.g. Microsoft recently announced the opening of their new data center in Quincy, Washington. The facility is over 450,000 square feet in size and has cost Microsoft a whopping $550 million. This digital farm of Microsoft sits on a potato farming area which was the main profession of about 6000 people. This area earlier was the center of food processing and packing industries. This particular data center has left all these people unemployed.
According to a local survey, this data center consumes about 48 megawatt of power, enough to power about 40,000 homes. It also said that these tech farms rake in about 30% more energy than all of the houses and industries combined.
This is not the case with only Microsoft. Even companies like Yahoo, Amazon, and Facebook have caused serious damages. People and communities who are not benefited by these developments bear the brunt of the damages. These companies promise to improve infrastructure in the community, but the real question is if the economic benefits these areas receive really worth the cost.
The solution to these problems is not new and is unimpeachable. There are creative ways of increasing the efficiency and reliability of data centers. Constructing green data centers is definitely expensive, but should be the primary focus. It would reduce operating and maintenance expenses and be environmentally responsible. Usage of alternative energy could alleviate the problem. At the end of the day, it is worth all the efforts to develop a green data center.