(This article was originally published in Forbes.)
On a recent business trip, I traveled across the U.S., from my bedroom to my hotel room, without talking to a single person. No, I’m not a raging introvert. I did it because every transaction was digital. From flight check-in and rental car to the “key” to my hotel room and ordering food, every step was automated.
This isn’t unusual, of course. We live in a highly digitized world that makes things faster and easier for consumers and inspires businesses to transform traditional in-person services into clickable ones.
Behind the ease of use and slick features of all these applications lies data—tons and tons of data. The data we are rapidly generating today must be safely managed, analyzed and stored at unprecedented and accelerating rates.
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Equinix data centers are designed with high operational standards and energy efficiency in mind
It’s also generating lots of capital. According to the World Economic Forum, there will be more than $100 trillion of direct and indirect economic impact created by digital data in the next three years.
But our digital world has an environmental impact on our physical world. Storing and managing the world’s data—which typically lives in large data centers the size of football fields—requires 1% to 1.5% of our planet’s global electric supply and accounts for roughly 1% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Digital Infrastructure companies like Equinix, along with data center operators around the world, have been working for decades to build in efficiencies to continually reduce energy consumption as data demand skyrockets.
Hyperscalers—or massive cloud providers like Google—have built their data centers near hydroelectric dams and wind farms to better leverage renewable resources. Many of us in the data center industry are using other methods like liquid cooling, geothermal and solar cooling, as well as artificial intelligence to analyze and improve energy consumption with incredible precision.
But not all solutions need to be this complex. Sometimes the simplest ideas can be equally powerful.
Have you ever been scolded for turning up the air conditioner because “you’re using too much energy?” It’s the same in the data center. Data storage and networking equipment have historically required a low-temperature environment to run properly. This meant that data centers had to be cool—very cool. This demanded an immense amount of energy to maintain highly restrictive humidity levels and temperatures.
But over the years, there have been major advancements in this equipment and it no longer requires such cool temperatures to perform. This means thermostats for data centers all over the world can now be turned up.
Recently, The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) updated its guidance to state that A1 (enterprise level) class equipment can now safely operate at temps from 64.4 to 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The previous guidance was 66 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
This may sound like a minor change, but applied on a global scale, those few degrees can lead to immense energy efficiencies and a reduction in GHG emissions. Some companies are turning up the heat even more to cut energy consumption. Meta increases temperature it runs its server rooms to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whether you’re an IT decision-maker, an investor or an employee, energy consumption matters. Companies across every sector are focused on doing more with less, not only for cost efficiency but for compliance.
Many companies have made public pledges to commit to climate neutrality by reducing emissions across global operations and supply chains by 2030. This requires accountability and transparency between companies and their suppliers.
Companies in every industry should be asking the right questions and staying on top of the latest innovations, technologies and guidelines so their energy efficiency goals can be achieved collectively. A siloed approach does not create meaningful change for companies or our climate.
And next time a loved one tells you “I’m too cold,” you might want to flip that thermostat a bit to the right.