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Bringing Balance to the Data Center

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Russell Skingsley

Russell is a strategist, enterprise and network architect, and customer-facing executive with a wide range of experience in a significant number of technologies and management disciplines. He joined Hitachi Vantara in 2016 as Technical Sales Team Leader and has applied his extensive experience and knowledge to the development of global technical strategies to help bring transformative technologies and solutions to Hitachi Vantara customers. He has more than 30 years of experience in programming, systems administration, network engineering, virtualization technologies, security, high level consultancy, architecture methodologies and executive leadership.

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You have an electrical problem in your data center.

Despite all the talk of consolidation and efficiency, computing demands and data volumes continue to soar, resulting in continued sprawl and rising energy consumption. Some claim data centers account for 4% of the total greenhouse emissions worldwide, and most predict levels will only rise over time.

The more electricity that’s consumed, the more CO2 is emitted from the power plants. It’s a nasty cycle that runs counter to global efforts to keep emissions down and prevent the average global temperature from rising 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. Even the United Nations is sounding less hopeful. In its latest Emissions Gap Report, The Closing Window, the UN Environment Programme calls out the international community for having “no credible pathway to 1.5°C,” and that only an “urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster.”

The purveyors and suppliers of tech have a critical role to play in the area of energy consumption, but especially in the data center. For too long, organizations have invested in digital horsepower to satisfy increasingly compute-intensive apps with little regard for the needed energy or its environmental impact. They’ve accommodated system investments by expanding the floorspace of facilities, which only stress energy for cooling, heating, lighting, and water.

What’s needed is balance between the digital and natural worlds; to create data center operations that serve the business needs sustainably. Not only is the balance possible it’s preferable. As a colleague wrote last year, decarbonizing the data center with the right infrastructure can improve system performance and generate less emissions, all while lowering costs. I couldn’t agree more.

Enter the Eco-Friendly Data Center

Here at Hitachi Vantara, we pride ourselves on being 60 years in the IT industry, a track record many of our peers do not have. In those six decades we have learned some important lessons and one of them is that everything, even IT architectural trends, have a season. Sustainability is more than a mere trend but has in recent times come to the forefront of many company board minutes and, as such, should be a driver for responsible IT architecture. That’s not always been the case and we are looking to redress that balance.

There are many companies that have seen the need for decarbonization and set specific aims around Environment, Social, & Governance (ESG) programs, due mainly to a growing realization that we’re destroying the planet with our negligent use of carbon-based energy generation. And if the moral imperative has not been enough, the issue has been made painfully clear on the bottom lines of companies in places like Europe, where energy costs have skyrocketed due to one of the worst conflicts on the continent in decades that involves one of the world’s largest energy providers.

That’s why we believe in the eco-friendly data center, one that provides an opportunity for higher performance, lower emissions, and cost savings. As I’ve written before, the original consolidation in the enterprise occurred with the arrival of virtualization and its ability to help organizations start utilizing idle compute power and excess storage capacity in data centers that were sprawling out of control thanks to the application-per-server approach. The sprawl of servers, I wrote, “was directly related to the number of applications we were running and the implied spare CPU cycles per server padding each software vendor system requirements went largely unnoticed and certainly unutilized.”

Hitachi Vantara’s focus on the eco-friendly data center starts with infrastructure. Our data storage systems include our patented technology that helps reduce power consumption by 30%-40% from model to model, without compromising performance. As part of this process and based on the comprehensive guidelines within the Carbon Footprint of Products (CFP), we also lower Green House Gas (GHG) emissions across the entire lifecycle of our systems – from procurement of materials to production, transport, use, disposal, and recycling.

On top of this, our all-flash storage arrays have enabled customers across the globe to consolidate legacy disk systems which frees up floor space, dramatically lowers power consumption and costs, and reduces CO2 emissions.

Sustainability at the Core

Our efforts in the eco-friendly data center stem from the bold direction of our parent company, Hitachi Ltd., which built environmental harmony into its fabric upon its inception more than a century ago. Last year, the company announced a new comprehensive sustainability program, the Hitachi 2022 Sustainability Report. Among the many ideas and plans shared, Hitachi explains the value of adopting a circular economy approach. “To help build a recycling-oriented society, Hitachi will advance a shift from the conventional linear economy to a circular economy,” it reads. “Hitachi is striving to realize this goal with a dual approach of pursuing effective and sustainable use of resources and assets in Hitachi’s business activities and achieving the circularity of resources throughout the value chain.”

Our concerted efforts and commitment are getting recognized. Gartner’s recent overall rating of “Positive” for Hitachi, stated the following in late January: “Hitachi’s consistent approach to sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) has led to the creation of a new digital green transformation market aimed at decarbonization, which is evidenced by projects such as Optimise Prime in the U.K. This project, also involving Royal Mail, Centrica, Uber and UK Power Networks, is aimed at large-scale field trials and the monitoring of more than 3,000 commercial electric vehicles (EVs). The project’s goal seeks to understand the impact of EVs on power distribution networks, on electricity demand optimization and on optimal deployment of charging facilities.”

And the Everest Group ranked Hitachi Vantara a “Major Contender” in its inaugural Sustainability Enablement Technology Services PEAK Matrix® 2022, which is based on a company’s “capabilities and offerings across the people, planet, and profit aspects of sustainability services.”

Bringing Balance

We know that enterprises are scrambling to understand their sustainability posture to lessen their impact on the climate, improve efficiencies, lower costs, and prepare for compliance. We’re working hard to engage and empower them to help assess and address their challenges and opportunities with smarter, eco-friendly infrastructure. We take a holistic approach to de-carbonization that brings IT and OT together with sustainable IT solutions around storage, edge, software and OT, as well as energy management and fleet management solutions.

Last August I wrote that enterprises were entering the “The Great Data Center Consolidation 2.0,” a new era of cloud repatriation to on-premises infrastructure and private clouds with a better understanding of application needs. I’m extending that idea to include the urgent need to balance the digital and natural worlds in and around the data center. Balance is good. It enables agility and establishes equilibrium for improved performance and quick reaction times. It’s time to bring balance to the data center, for the good of your business and the planet.

Russell Skingsley is CTO and Group Vice President, Technical Sales, Hitachi Vantara.

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