A data centre is a building or facility, which securely houses large networks of computers, back up power systems, cooling systems and security applications which house all of the company data. Most large companies these days have at least one data centre or a network of data centres. Data centres require a lot of energy to run efficiently. For this reason, many companies who have a lot of data centres have been targeted by Greenpeace and the general public to go green and reduce their energy consumption by switching to greener, more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Environmental Group Pressure
A few large companies have made announcements that they are increasing their energy efficiency by going green. Just how green is difficult to say and one can only go by the information released by companies. For example, in April 2011, Facebook announced that it was going to share the secrets of its new energy efficient data centres with its competitors. According to a story published on the BBC news website, Facebook claimed to use 38 per cent less energy than its counterparts from its data centre in Oregon, USA. Despite their best efforts, environmental groups said that they could have gone further.
Greenpeace assessed 14 of the worlds largest IT companies to see just how green they were. The only companies that got a pass according to zdnet.co.uk were Google and Akamai. Amazon was heavily criticised by Greenpeace for not being green enough despite claims to the contrary and the organization found Apple and Amazon to be the two worst companies on their hit list. Large companies are typically very secretive about their data centre operations, so Greenpeace ranked them according to various measures including energy usage, level of transparency regarding how green they were, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation.
In response to this pressure, in May 2012, Apple announced that one of its centres would be completely reliant on renewable energy sources by the end of 2012. According to zdnet.co.uk, this announcement may have been precipitated by the heavy PR campaign initiated by Greenpeace to push big companies like Apple and Amazon to adopt greener technology at their data centres.
Due to the consistent lack of transparency typical of large companies with large data centres which use lots of energy, it is almost impossible to define just how green their data centres are from the information available. Even with the ability to properly analyse the data, Greenpeace was unable to gauge exactly how green some of the companies it surveyed were. The fact that data centres use a lot of energy is a well known fact. It is also a fact that some of these data centres have to utilise energy guzzling cooling systems to ensure that they don’t experience expensive and disastrous meltdowns. The move over to greener energy sources is expensive and time consuming with many data centres not being located in areas where green energy sources are available. However, despite this, in response to pressure, many companies are currently adopting greener practices such as Google’s reduce, reuse and recycle policy and companies such as Facebook, employing new technology to improve energy efficiency.