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Data centers are critical infrastructure
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Data centers are critical infrastructure

We can make them more sustainable by “breaking trade-offs.”

Data centers are a key component of the universal digital infrastructure: of companies and nation states. As the world grapples with rising energy costs and environmental sustainability concerns, relief is coming in how the world consumes data in the data center of today and tomorrow.

The International Energy Agency estimates that data centers use 1% of all global electricity and that by 2025, data centers will consume 20% of the world’s power supply. COVID-19 accelerated the trend, with people working, studying, and doing almost everything else from home, consuming more from global data centers and thereby increasing data centers’ energy consumption. Before COVID-19, 50-rack data centers were the norm; now, 500-rack and 2,000-rack data centers are in play.

However, enterprises and hyperscalers don’t think in terms of rack space anymore. Megawatts are now the key data center metric, meaning the size of your power envelope — not your square footage — is the limiting factor for data centers being built today.

The good news is that we are adapting: as organizations, civilizations, and human beings always have. Today we are building more efficient data centers that handle more data and have more compute power while using less energy, more sustainable infrastructure, and at a much lower cost.

It starts, as these kinds of turnarounds often do, by applying first-principles thinking to existing problems.

When we started VAST Data in 2016, we wanted to build a unified data storage platform to make it easier for companies to access and analyze massive amounts of data from many sources. We made a series of bets on technology early on, the biggest of which was to use flash media as the foundation of a platform that could support all enterprise data. Flash works better and faster than traditional hard drive-based storage that’s underpinned global data centers for decades.

The byproduct of flash in the data center is a much more power-efficient data center. All-flash data storage requires fewer servers because it eliminates bottlenecks. Less data is moved from side to side. Data is accessed in a solid state rather than using hard drives, which use energy to ensure the constant spinning of disks.

These technology traits marry nicely with our customers’ agendas, which increasingly place sustainability as a top three to five business priority. Doing more, and getting more, from less resonates with customers looking to be more sustainable while meeting their business demands.

Using less has always been important to us. As a company, we are inherently efficient. We believe the same philosophy can be brought to the data center. If your infrastructure software is more efficient, then everything becomes more efficient.

If you roll out a new version of code that’s twice as efficient, everything becomes more efficient on the existing platforms. And it requires fewer CPU cycles. You can extend the lifespan of storage drives. You buy and replace fewer switches and power supplies.

These are all force multipliers that are often overlooked when evaluating costs and efficiency. Be more efficient across the board. Doing so adds up to great savings.

You don’t need to know if one technology is greener than another. You just find ways to use less. Less space, less power, less cooling, and fewer parts replaced less often.

There’s always been a trade-off between sustainability and cost. Data centers will buy energy from the most economical provider regardless of what is the most ecologically friendly. We are big on breaking trade-offs. If we can come up with a solution that uses less energy and doesn’t cost more, it’s a win-win for our clients and the environment.

We know it can be done because we are doing it. In the near term, software will have a more dramatic impact on sustainability than new physical energy breakthroughs that will come to fruition in the future.

As technologists, innovators, and problem-solvers, we’re excited about the advancements we are making in the use of hardware and in software design to dramatically improve the efficiency of data centers. We’re helping data centers use less. That saves money and the environment.

We’d love to discuss the trade-offs you and your company are facing and explore how we can help you save on costs and energy use while being more efficient and productive. It’s something we like to call “breaking trade-offs.” Learn more at www.vastdata.com/sustainability.