Here’s How to Get Started with Sustainability

Understand how the technology vendor uses power, and then only do business with people who care about sustainability. 

  • October 10, 2023 | Author: Steve Zurier
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Companies have been ramping up their cloud adoption and focusing on digital transformation, but often without much concern for the environmental impact of these activities.

Unfortunately, there’s a substantial impact: The Climate Neutral Group estimates that data centers now account for 2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. While many companies have improved their sustainability efforts at offices or in plants, they have overlooked the “decarbonization” of data centers – the idea of reviewing every component, machine, and power and cooling system and making them sustainable.

“We’ve found that customers are a bit overwhelmed by the sustainability challenge, so they come to Hitachi Vantara and ask us for help,” says Ian Clatworthy, director of product marketing for data center infrastructure at Hitachi Vantara.

Clatworthy says organizations can start by understanding their power usage and asking these questions: Where does the power come from? How much does the business use? Who uses the power and for what types of activities?

Once companies understand the basics, they need to go a layer deeper and ask their suppliers how their products are manufactured. For example, businesses should ask: Why did the company choose that specific metal supplier? Why did they choose the disk manufacturer? Are their components recyclable?

Then they can go on to ask if the supplier produces their products with coal or are they net zero?. Companies should also ask how the products that come into their data centers are transported: Rail? Airplanes? Trucks? Ships? Purchasers always need to weigh costs versus environmental sustainability, plus the impact on production. Does the company really need to fly materials to the plant versus using shipping or rail?

Denise Lee, vice president of the sustainability office at Cisco, said the industry has to stop thinking that it can rip-and-replace entire racks in data centers every five years and then dispose of all those products in landfills.

Lee says Cisco has been advocating for what is being termed the circular economy.

For Cisco, the notion of “circularity” means the company will build products with resource efficiency, including sustainable packaging, modularity, and easily repairable components. Lee says part of the idea is that customers can return end-of-use Cisco products back to Cisco at no cost, then Cisco reuses and recycles 99% of what’s returned.

Hitachi Vantara’s Clatworthy points out that by leveraging these sustainable concepts, Hitachi Vantara recently reduced the size of a financial services customer’s data center storage by 50%.

“The customer came to us and said that if they didn’t do business in a more sustainable way, they would cease to be in business over the next few years,” said Clatworthy. “So, we took the old parts and recycled them. We also manufacture in Japan where they meet net carbon zero standards. I want our customers to be able to make these points around sustainability in their annual reports.


Image Credit: Hitachi Vantara

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