Europe Faces Green and Efficiency Tipping Point


Part 1 in a 4-part series

Spotlight on Energy Efficiency

Customers of European data centers face growing demands for compliance with environmental standards and for greater energy efficiency. Equinix is helping them navigate the new requirements, and seize the opportunities to improve energy efficiency, refine their green IT credentials, and cut costs.

  • Artesian aquifers pulling hot and cold water from the ground in Amsterdam
  • Transformer-less, uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) running in “eco mode”
  • Managing heat using “grey water.” Deployment of variable frequency drive equipped CRAC systems.
  • Use of free air cooling
  • Deep lake water cooling in Toronto
  • Segregating devices and equipment not by cage, but into physical zones, based on their cooling requirements

What do these operational approaches have in common?

All are providing significant benefits in terms of energy efficiency. And all have been deployed, or are being assessed for use, in Equinix International Business Exchange (IBX) data centers.

By virtue of its size, and its customers’ energy demands, Equinix is on the frontlines of the green IT and energy efficiency discussion. Indeed, with annualized revenues in excess of $1.2 billion, Equinix is the world’s largest network-neutral data center provider, operating in more than 38 markets and 13 countries. Backed by its significant investments in energy efficient technology and construction, operational improvements, and workforce development, Equinix enables its more than 4,000 customers to continually improve their energy efficiency and benefit from the latest advances in green IT.

For data center customers, embracing green IT and energy efficiency is far from optional. Indeed, in many organizations, thanks to rising power requirements, this issue is firmly on the boardroom agenda. In Europe especially, additional pressure is coming from both consumers and regulators, who are demanding more efficient and sustainableapproaches to energy consumption. And they want proof of compliance.

For example, based on the EU climate package, which builds on commitments made under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol,the UK Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme requires companies to purchase carbon allowances to offset their year’s energy consumption.

Without a doubt, data centers, and therefore data center providers, have been attracting more scrutiny because they consume significant amounts of power. One of the sharpest indicators of this trend toward increased accountability comes by way of the United States, where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been developing an Energy Star rating system for data centers, so customers can compare their energy efficiency.

On a similar front, Switzerland singles out hydropower-based power production and green electricity offerings with its Naturemade Star label. (All four of Equinix’s Swiss IBX’s have earned this Naturemade Star certification.)

Demand for Outsourced Data Centers Soars

The call for greater energy efficiency comes at a time when outsourced data centers are seeing tremendous demand. According to Tier1 Research, the multi-tenant data center market – worth $13.2 billion globally in 2010 – is set to reach $22.4 billion by 2013, growing by nearly 20% per year. (Source: Tier1 Research, “Multi-Tenant Datacenter Global Markets Overview – 2011)

What’s behind this growth?

IT departments are continuing to outsource their data centers, as “absolute control” increasingly gives way to “informed management,” especially over employee-owned devices, cloud-based applications, and commoditized IT infrastructure, wherever possible running virtualized environments.

Furthermore, the cost of building and maintaining a state-of-the-art data center and then replacing it every 10 years is becoming too expensive for enterprises to handle alone. Data center providers, by virtue of their scale, typically offer superior operating efficiencies and price points, especially when factoring in the cost of new construction. They also enable organizations to cost-effectively maintain the denser (but hotter and thus harder to cool) footprint demanded by highly virtualized environments. And they provide a highly skilled pool of engineers and specialists in whose knowledge and expertise the providers constantly invest.

Virtualization has rewritten businesses’ data center demands. One of Equinix’s customers, for example, reduced its number of physical servers from 300 to 94 (75% of which run virtualized environments), reducing related energy consumption by 75%. Together with cloud computing and increased mobility, these trends are freeing businesses from the requirement to locate servers physically within the enterprise walls. From a business standpoint, neutral co-location data center operators are better equipped to provide organizations with required computing resources, at less cost and greater efficiency.

Over the next few decades, Equinix expects these trends to intensify. Technology advances will make virtualized environments even more efficient and cost-effective, but at the same time, greater processing power density will result in server space generating much more heat. Increased use of mobile devices will demand a correspondingly greater infrastructure, drawing more power, to support mobility.

Finally, most market watchers expect cloud-based applications to soon shoulder the majority of enterprise IT requirements. As cloud-based applications bundle not just functionality, but also security and integration, organizations will increasingly demand (either directly or indirectly) more energy efficient data centers.

Europe Demands Sustainability and Accountability

Although the move towards greater efficiency in data centers is a global trend, Europe is far ahead in principle and practice. Already, a majority of Equinix’s European customers regard energy efficient practices not as an RFP checkbox, but as a buying decision.

Indeed, a study from Jones Lang LaSalle found that in Europe, data center efficiency comprises one of the top five buying criteria for data center customers. (Source: “The Jones Lang LaSalle Data Centre Barometer Survey” (Autumn 2010). Many of Equinix’s largest, public-facing customers regard green IT and energy efficiency as a data center provider “make or break decision.” Simply put, they can’t afford to be seen with business partners who don’t take sustainable practices seriously enough.

Already, organizations that have historically been early adopters of cutting-edge data center technologies and techniques are demanding greater green IT approaches and energy efficiency results. This is particularly true of the financial services sector. Cost concerns, increased scrutiny and business risks are driving organizations to create innovative business cases that budget for carbon costs and minimize their energy consumption profile.


Coming up in part 2: The Equinix approach to responsible energy usage.