The global financial industry demands more sustainable data centers – what should you be looking for?
By David Watkin, Director of Data Center Solutions VIRTUS
Like all sectors, the global banking and finance industry is increasingly aware that responsibility for its environmental impact has become a critical business imperative.
For the most forward-looking companies, this not only means looking at day-to-day operations, but also demanding rigorous green credentials from their partners and suppliers. Data center providers — the power-hungry companies that are responsible for their critical business infrastructure — are under particular scrutiny.
The good news is that progress has already been made in this area, with data center operators significantly reducing their carbon footprint. However, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed before real success can be achieved, including the need to demonstrate that it is not just about ‘greenwashing’: embarking on green initiatives simply for “good PR value”.
What should financial companies look for in their data center partners? It is important that suppliers are able to demonstrate a holistic approach to sustainability, which addresses the entire life cycle of their operations, from design and construction to operation and maintenance.
A holistic approach
Data centers must meet high standards for energy efficiency, demonstrated by aggressive power efficiency targets (PUEs), and many vendors are working with cutting-edge technology solutions to achieve them. However, the harsh truth is that vendors are simply not going to achieve true sustainability by leveraging technological developments and changing what they are doing now. Indeed, most data centers have been applying best practices for some time, such as developing a robust approach to air management and implementing efficient cooling techniques.
Instead, organizations should seek a holistic approach, which considers sustainability at every stage of the data center lifecycle – from design, to construction, to operation and maintenance. Reducing the carbon footprint of a data center starts at the construction site. It is therefore essential to ask if your data center supplier is committed to using low-carbon materials, streamlining the delivery process and minimizing the consumption of new resources.
But sustainability alone will not provide the high quality level of service needed. While sustainability should be intrinsic to the whole operation, it should manifest responsibly and maintain reliability and resilience.
Why responsibility must go hand in hand with reliability and resilience
There have been many comments in recent months about the challenge for data centers to meet sustainability goals while simultaneously ensuring the highest quality reliability and resiliency. But can data center providers really do both: provide the most reliable service while being sustainable?
The truth is that these commitments actually go hand in hand. A durable data center is also often a high-performance and reliable facility. For example, renewable energy sources are increasingly considered more reliable than fossil fuels, especially because renewable energies do not depend on one source, but on several such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass. Moreover, sheltered from the fluctuations of the international oil market, renewable energies are more resilient in the event of a drop in demand and economic decline.
Another excellent example of intrinsically linked performance and durability is in plant cooling. There have been many innovations in this area, such as the exploitation of indirect adiabatic and evaporative cooling technology – which are both sustainable and increase the efficiency of a facility.
Pay attention to standards and certifications
While financial services organizations must demonstrate ESG objectives, data center providers must be able to deliver on their promises of meeting green obligations. The most environmentally friendly data center vendors prioritize the ability to prove and substantiate their green credentials.
An important way for suppliers to prove they are responsible is through certifications, providing third-party verification of sustainability credentials. Both BREEAM and LEED are sustainability rating systems for the built environment, while also looking at the life cycle of a building, from concept and design to construction, operation and maintenance. Standards can also be useful in the pursuit of transparency and accountability: in particular ISO 50001 for energy management and ISO 14001 for environmental management.
Benchmarks and standards not only provide evidence of what is happening now, but show a clear framework for the future, allowing suppliers to deeply question their effectiveness against green ambitions on an ongoing basis.
While the path to sustainability won’t be easy, especially for notoriously power-hungry data centers, many vendors are already making great strides towards true sustainability. It is crucial for companies in the global financial sector to demand that their partners have a truly holistic sustainability strategy, that they can prove their credentials at every stage of the process and, above all, that they embrace the “three Rs”. – reliability, responsibility and resilience. .