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The bees have it, as Datacloud congress focuses on sustainability

CyrusOne bee hotel.jpg

Sustainability is now a key strategy for the data centre industry, the industry is learning at this week’s Datacloud Global Congress.

Numerous speakers at the event in Monaco said that climate change and sustainability are now at the heart of what they do.

“We have been at the forefront of pushing sustainability in an industry that’s not known for it,” said Wojciech Stramski, CEO of Beyond.pl, a Polish data centre operator.

“The data centre industry is at the heart of the world today, and we have to take a lead not only in delivering solutions, but we need to have sustainability at the heart of what we do.”

His words on Tuesday followed hours after Infrastructure Masons (iMasons) announced its Climate Accord at the Datacloud Awards. This accord is an agreement involving Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, Meta – the owner of Facebook – and Microsoft, that has now been adopted by more than 70 signatories.

The event, which continues today, showed a marked contrast from the last one before the pandemic, in 2019. One company, CyrusOne, had a re-usable cardboard stand, assembled on site, complete with seats, table and a bee hotel (pictured).

The company had hoped to offer delegates to the event honey from the bees at its site in Dublin. But the jars were held up in customs because the company shipped supplies via post-Brexit UK rather than direct from Ireland to France, both EU members.

Lex Coors, a member of EU Data Center Association, and chief data center technology and engineering officer at Interxion by DLR, told the conference: “You need to change the world to drive sustainability. We are committed to minimise the impact of our operations on the environment.”

Thierry Chamayou, Schneider Electric’s VP of cloud and service providers in EMEA, said decisions about climate impact had to be taken at the highest level. “It has to be led by the very head of the company. It’s not a matter of sustainability or business, it’s sustainability and business, for sure.”

Sara Laurell, CEO of Loopia, a web services and hosting business, noted: “It’s a driver of good business practice to look at resource allocation.” And that meant energy consumption.

Her colleague Lars Johansson, head of data and analytics, warned of surprises: “You have to optimise the way you build your website to reduce your emissions.”

Michael Tobin, entrepreneur and chairman of the board at EdgeConneX, warned of public pressure on data centre companies and investors. “People want to be seen to invest on the right side,” he said.

Lars Schedin, senior advisor at EcoDataCenter, warned: “We need to apply greenhouse gas protocols. Even renewable energy counts for 70% of total emissions. It can count for more global emissions than coal.”

Pressure from the public means “sustainability will become more and more important”, said Anders Fryxell, sales director at the same company.

Caroline Puygrenier, Digital Realty’s director strategy and connectivity at Interxion, suggested one way the industry as a whole could reduce emissions is by replacing small, inefficient data centres operated in-house by enterprises.

“It’s not their core business,” she said. “There’s a trend to help those enterprises move to a greener way of working.”

Ciena’s Andreas Iselt, director of solution architects, said technology will help. With each new generation of technology the power needed per bit of data transferred goes down by 50-60%, he said.

Marc Halbfinger, CEO of PCCW Global, pointed to the use of 5G – which used less energy than other mobile technologies – to transfer data to and from the cloud. Puygrenier agreed: “We’ve seen 5G is not so much a consumer technology but an enterprise technology. The end users are more the cloud companies.”

Yonit Goldberg, managing partner of 11Stream, pointed to 5G investment in the Middle East. “And 5G will relay to the cloud,” she said.

Iselt talked hopefully of decentralisation to the edge, connected by fibre. “Optical communications is one of the most energy efficient ways of transferring data.”

But Halbfinger warned of the wider effect of rising interest rates, leading to “a change in demand profiles by users”. He asked: “Will the business be continually sustainable?”