Data centers must be able to provide more transparency on how they have adopted sustainable architectures, as enterprise customers increasingly expect to know their own carbon footprint
This means data center operators will need to have key metrics on hand, so they can provide the information clients want as well as ensure their sustainability efforts are effective.
It is also imperative they do so with increasing digital adoption and the need for more data centers to support growing online traffic. As these facilities build out and expand, they should do so with higher energy efficiencies and lower carbon emissions.
The good news is that major global players, specifically cloud vendors, appear to be taking steps in the right direction. Google  and Facebook , for instance, have revealed plans to tap solar energy in Singapore to drive their renewable energy needs.
The adoption of cloud computing, in fact, can reduce carbon emission by more than 1 billion metric tons between 2021 and 2024 , an IDC report indicates, as greater efficiencies are gained from aggregated compute resources.
This is fueled by the move from disparate enterprise data centers to larger-scale colocation data center facilities, where the latter deliver more efficient power management and optimized cooling. Hyperscale data centers also tap more power-efficient servers and improve server utilization rates, according to IDC.
The research firm’s forecast of more than 1 billion metric tons reduction in carbon dioxide is based on the assumption that, by 2024, at least 60% of data centers will adopt the technology and processes that are fundamental to more sustainable facilities. IDC predicts that if all data centers operating in 2024 are designed for sustainability, 1.6 billion metric tons in carbon emissions can be cut.
Provide transparency in DC operating environments
So how exactly should data centers be designed to lower their carbon emissions and optimize their sustainability?
Topmost, in order to manage each site’s carbon footprint, you need to first measure it. There should be controls or building management systems in place to monitor and report usage, including access control, lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) control, and electric power management.
Many facilities today still lack such insights and depend primarily on utility bills for guidance on their power consumption. There is little to no transparency in the operating environments, when the ability to offer visibility to end-users is essential.
Clearly, this has to change, especially as consumers globally are now more conscious about the impact of climate change. In response, brands are investing efforts in determining and managing their own carbon footprint.
And there are various metrics available in the market today to assess KPIs (key performance indicators) of data centers. These work to ensure such facilities run efficiently as well as achieve sustainability objectives.
The IEEE recommends  that metrics should consider key factors such as age, location, and data center typology, including colocation centers. The industry body defines the core components of data center operations as energy efficiency, cooling, greenness, performance, thermal and air management, network, security, storage, and financial impact.
There are also other industry protocols such as the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard , which is commonly used to calculate and classify carbon emissions into three categories, or “scopes”. Scope 1 encompasses emissions from sources directly owned or controlled by the organization, such as furnaces and vehicles, while Scope 2 looks at indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, including power, heat, and cooling.
Scope 3 comprises all indirect emissions, excluding those in Scope 2, generated across the company’s external supply chain.
How PDG is matching up
As a major data center operator, Princeton Data Group (PDG) is part of a customer’s extended value chain with regard to the organization’s carbon footprint measurement. This underscores PDG’s role in providing complete visibility into our site operations and carbon footprint, in order to facilitate our customers’ efforts in measuring their own carbon emissions.
Here, we have invested significant efforts to ensure our operational teams are continuously measuring and ensuring there is granularity in that visibility. It requires discipline and effort in developing the necessary processes and toolsets for us to have the capabilities to do so. These include looking at industry best practices to determine what we should implement internally.
We are also working with industry associations to deploy equipment, which have been assessed and certified to operate more efficiently, in our facilities across the various Asia-Pacific markets.
These industry groups assess both hardware and software products, and we want to be ready to take those standardized rack profiles or technology platforms and roll them out in our facilities.
In addition, we actively look at advanced technology in cooling and electrical distribution that we can use when we design new data centers or upgrade existing facilities. The aim here is to bring down energy consumption, and save 5% to 10% on the mechanical and cooling components as well as 1% to 2% on other variables, such as dry fans on CRAC (Computer Room Air Conditioning) units.
These savings may seem little, but they all add up. In particular, our strong focus on sustainability is crucial as we continue to build out our pan-Asian footprint, which currently encompasses 19 data centers across 13 cities in five countries. These include China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, and Japan, where we have announced a $1 billion investment to establish a 100-megawatt (MW) hyperscale facility in Tokyo .
We also put significant focus on closely matching data center resources to what our customers need. This means when we launch new facilities, we usually roll out our capacity in phases so we are not powering infrastructures that are not needed or used.
Specifically, our infrastructure is built in a modular fashion to more tightly link our data center buildout to end-user requirements. Adding capacity progressively helps ensure a higher utilization rate and minimize our environmental impact.
Collectively, all these are important steps in accelerating PDG’s journey to better analyze and document our carbon footprint.
Princeton Digital Group (PDG) is a leading investor, developer and operator of Internet infrastructure. Headquartered in Singapore with presence and operations in China, Singapore, India, Indonesia, and Japan, its portfolio of data centers powers the expansion of hyperscalers and enterprises in the fastest-growing digital economies across Asia. For more information, visit www.princetondg.com