Optimizing the Carbon Footprint of Data for a Sustainable Future, CIO News, ET CIO

By Sanjay Rohatgi

The creation, processing and management of data has changed the world forever. Keep in mind that the amount of data generated globally every year is expected to grow to 175 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025, according to a report by market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). According to a report by Research and Markets, India currently has more than 669 million internet users in the country who are expected to generate massive amounts of data at explosive rates.

The flow of data to the cloud drives unprecedented innovation and business growth. Many observers therefore refer to data as “the new oil”. And like oil, data is at the core of an industry that is coming under increasing scrutiny as the main source of global carbon emissions in a world adapting to the realities of climate change.

As data – and the industry that supports it – increases our collective contribution to global carbon emissions, companies need to understand its impact and take action to mitigate it. This includes investments in technologies for generating and storing renewable energy and for carbon capture. Organizations should also learn how to manage their data to drive a sustainable future.

Data is part of the solution

A report by CRISIL estimates that the Indian data center market will double to between 1,700 and 1,800 megawatts1 (MW) by fiscal 2025, from 870 MW last fiscal year. If nothing is done, the insatiable thirst for energy in data will continue to grow as digitization progresses.

However, it is unrealistic for companies to stop producing or storing data in today’s world. Rather, they need to make better use of their data. The first step is to understand what data they have, where it is stored and how it is used.

Globally, only 32% of the data available to businesses is being used; the remaining 68% are not even used, according to research by IDC. Businesses can reduce their carbon footprint by learning how much of their data they use, how much of their data they need, and getting rid of the rest.

Go cloud, invest in technology

Companies can further reduce their carbon emissions by moving their data to the cloud. A forecast by IDC shows that continued adoption of cloud computing could prevent more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions from 2021 to 2024. A key advantage of the cloud is the greater efficiency of aggregate computing resources.

With cloud and technology adoption increasing, cloud and data software companies play an important role in reducing the environmental impact of the data industry. They boldly champion a more sustainable future by reducing their environmental footprint and helping customers develop sustainable solutions.

Creating a greener data ecosystem

To further mitigate the environmental impact of data, companies can find cloud and data center service providers investing in technologies that increase resource utilization and use their scale to influence the energy generation mix. For example, cloud providers can hire energy companies to build solar or wind farms and commit to sourcing energy from them. Agreements of this type justify investment in renewable energy and help service providers achieve sustainability goals.

In addition, companies should be on the lookout for service providers who plan and equip their data centers in an energy-efficient manner. Some of the energy optimization measures they can implement include the use of ambient cooling and cold aisle containment features to optimize energy use to cool equipment. Efficient lighting and smart controls can also play a crucial role in lowering data center carbon emissions in the long-term.

Businesses can also expect governments to introduce green taxes to reduce carbon emissions within their organization and technology supply chain. These carbon taxes will represent additional costs with complex and rapidly evolving compliance that may require operational changes. For example, companies need to consider new carbon consumption models that technology providers are offering and review them every few years.

Paving the way to a more sustainable future

We believe that using our environmental resources responsibly and creating a more sustainable future is our duty to future generations. However, the window of opportunity for us to act is closing fast.

The question is what do we do next? As organizations continue to generate, process and store large amounts of data, they should adopt a “cloud-first” strategy to create a highly sustainable approach to data storage. This can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and have a more significant impact on our environment.

The author is senior vice president and general manager, APAC at NetApp

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the author and ETCIO.com does not necessarily endorse them. ETCIO.com is not liable for damage caused to persons/organizations directly or indirectly.

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