Data Center Decisions Draw on Sustainability Strategies

In this video, Steve McDowell, chief analyst and founder at NAND Research, describes why the technology industry needs to make it easier for IT operators to know their data center’s carbon footprint.

By Jason Lopez

By Jason Lopez May 9, 2024

Data centers account for nearly 1.5% of the world's energy consumption, and the information technology sector contributes almost 1% of worldwide carbon emissions.

The shift towards sustainability in IT has been increasing in recent years motivated by several factors, including the widespread adoption of ESG programs by companies globally. 

“If you look at RFPs and RFQs for deals they all now contain sustainability metrics, whether that's on the supply chain side or the operational side, so solving this is a very real concern,” said Steve McDowell, chief analyst and founder at NAND Research, in an exclusive video interview with The Forecast.

McDowell said IT organizations aren’t financially in a position to rip out significant amounts of hardware, to be replaced by more efficient machines. But, they can maximize energy and carbon efficiency in electric consumption as well as heating, cooling, and decommissioning of equipment. The challenge now is to strike a balance between innovation, efficiency, and ecological responsibility.

As sustainability has gone from a buzzword to a critical component of IT operations, McDowell noted that tools to measure and manage the data center carbon footprint are only now beginning to emerge. 

“We're very kind of early stages of providing the tools that let me as an IT practitioner know what my carbon footprint is on the decisions that I make,” he said.

RELATED

Experts Discuss Top IT Sustainability Challenges

Transcript:

Steve McDowell: Well, you asked me about the trends that we're seeing in, in the topics. So one is simplicity. the other is sustainability. And this is an interesting one because, you know, five years ago you didn't hear it, guys talking about sustainability. but now you do and, and it's driven from a number of reasons, right? I, I think we're all aware, you know, 88% of enterprises have some sort of E s G program. And if you look at who is most impactful to E S G, it's oftentimes it you know, data centers account for almost one and a half percent of the world's energy consumption information technology accounts for almost 1% of worldwide carbon emissions. you know, we can't necessarily change the hardware that we're running on that train is moving. but a key around sustainability is better utilizing those resources that you have, don't let them sit idle every wat of energy that you're, that you're using or every unit of carbon. Make sure that's useful. so that's really being driven home into it. It's being driven home in the enterprise in terms of, it needs to help meet the sustainability goals of the organization, but it's also you know, on the shoulders of the technology industry to deliver the solutions to make that easier.

RELATED

Three Trends Defining IT Sustainability in 2024

Ken Kaplan: Has sustainability added to the complexity of the IT leaders?

Steve McDowell: Sustainability has added to the complexity of managing IT infrastructure, right? We're, we're very, very kind of, early stages of providing the tools that let me as an IT practitioner know what my carbon footprint is on the decisions that I make. and you know, it trickles down it's data center to rack, to server, to workload, and then maybe across cloud boundaries. And just because I'm running a workload in the cloud doesn't absolve me of responsibility for the resources that I'm using. you know, so the tools are just beginning to emerge. This is still very new but the industry's moving that direction. If you look at, you know, RFPs and RF QS for deals, they all now contain sustainability metrics, whether that's on the supply chain side or the operational side. So solving this is a very real concern.

RELATED

Experts Discuss Top IT Sustainability Challenges

Ken Kaplan: Do you see IT folks managing that? It seems like they're going to have to take on a lot of responsibility.

Steve McDowell: In most enterprises, it is probably the biggest consumer. I mean, you know, manufacturing and heavy industry aside is the heaviest consumer of electricity. and it's not just the servers, it's all of the things around that. If I build a data center and I, and I populate that with servers and GPUs I have to heat and cool it, right? I have to account for the water that's maintaining the HVACs. It's not just about electricity, right? It's about all of the resources around that. and then, you know, carbon footprint aside, we also have, you know, the, the challenge of what do I do with equipment as it's decommissioned because, you know, the, the, the materials in these are not always good for the environment. So no, it absolutely is point of the spear for many, many enterprises, and it's just growing in significance.

Editor’s note: Learn more about Nutanix's sustainability IT solutions and Nutanix’s ESG efforts.

Jason Lopez is executive producer of Tech Barometer, the podcast outlet for The Forecast. He’s the founder of Connected Social Media. Previously, he was executive producer at PodTech and a reporter at NPR.

Ken Kaplan contributed to this video.

© 2024 Nutanix, Inc. All rights reserved. For additional information and important legal disclaimers, please go here.