Effective Measurement Is The Key To Meeting Environmental Sustainability Goals In Data Centers

The role of digital twins in reducing data center power consumption.


Hyperscale compute, using high-performance connected processors, continually transforms our lives as more and more applications rely on this type of compute, and at the heart of this hyperscale revolution are data centers. It is estimated that an equal amount of power is required for the airflow and cooling systems as for IT equipment. The pressure is on for organizations to create and adopt long-term sustainability and environmental social governance (ESG) goals. Investors, government agencies, regulators, consumer sentiment, and the workforce are all concerned about these goals.

The data center construction market is growing rapidly due to expanding cloud-based business essential services, new data-intensive applications, cryptocurrency, and off-premise security. It is expected to reach $34.5 billion in 2025, up from $22.6 billion in 2019, according to Research and Markets. Between 2010 and 2018, data center workloads increased by 5.5x, internet traffic increased 10-fold, and storage capacity rose by 25x. The EDA industry has responded with an incredible focus on power and energy efficiency throughout the design process, though most projects are designed with margins. The 5.5x growth in workloads has only resulted in a 6% rise in data center electricity consumption.

With so much new construction, plus retrofitting of older data centers, managers are working hard to develop long-term strategies to reduce power consumption while demand is quickly rising. The challenge is – how can progress be measured? How can organizations know they are taking the right steps to ensure long-term sustainability goals?

Data center managers need to both set aggressive emissions and energy reduction goals and then create the measurements to make sure they will meet those goals, which they can report back to investors, government agencies, and other interested parties.

These managers don’t have the time, budget, or manpower to test out different scenarios in the “real” world, which means they must turn to engineering simulation or creating virtual prototypes of existing sites and sites under planning to assess the impact of capacity planning.

By creating a digital twin, a physics-based simulation of an entire data center, managers can make informed decisions about cutting costs, increasing energy efficiency, and safeguarding reliability to meet service level agreement (SLA) requirements. Response to new requests can be evaluated quickly and factually, saving time and money while reducing risk. Sustainability goals can be measured and reports generated, thus streamlining data center management.

And how can this information be shared in a reliable way? Several efforts are underway to define methodologies for standardizing the measurement of progress, including the Open Compute Project and public accounting firms. Working with an independent standards-based organization to certify the digital twin and the progress towards ESG goals is an option that may speed the adoption of these long-term goals.

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