All over Canada, especially around Toronto and other provincial capitals, brand new colocation facilities are being built and filled with fiber-optic cable as well as the latest, most advanced Web servers on the market. Data centers are the most tangible signs of the Internet and the cloud service phenomenon that’s revolutionizing the way Canadians do business and live their everyday lives. All manner of commercial activity is migrating to the Web as merchants of all sizes now commonly store all of their customer data online, which means data live in many strange little buildings surrounded by cooling fans and security cameras, much like the one seen below. Purpose-built data storage facilities are deliberately nondescript structures, but they are easy to identify if you know the eight ways to spot a data center.
With this growth in infrastructure, there’s a corresponding rise in the demand for data center managers. This high-quality green job comes with a relatively light work load, clean working conditions, and good pay, especially if security certificates are required. Here in Toronto, several employers besides Bell and Rogers are seeking qualified people to run their expanding operations.
Data storage facilities are the muddy boots of the Web, and the C-suite executives who manage these enterprises have a growing responsibility to be green. Yet when it comes to battling climate change, it’s often their staff and suppliers who are the muscle behind their words. The CEOs and middle managers have to take a position and enforce ecologically sustainable practices up and down the line, before and after selling to consumers. The public has to make these executives aware of the need for change, and this is happening in every business sector.
It was recently recognized, however, that before data center managers can plot how much CO2 they can keep out of the atmosphere, they need to better understand what effects their operations are currently having on the environment.
Published in June 2013, Google funded a research study conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to measure the energy impact of cloud computing. Before this, the search giant hosted live events in 2009 and 2011 where they discussed with industry peers how to improve data center efficiency in order to make the Web even greener. In 2013, they hosted the first “How Green is the Internet?” summit to explore the environmental impact of the Web.
How Green is Your Data Center?
The consensus has always been that data storage facilities are among the greenest businesses in North America. The firms have virtually no carbon emissions from their hydroelectric systems, and they recycle 100% of the cardboard packaging that arrives in their loading bays. The energy savings already evidenced around green cloud computing is also becoming more obvious. Although data centers themselves are big energy consumers, the study by Lawrence Berkeley concluded that if all IT businesses in the US migrated to the cloud tomorrow, it could total an 87 percent energy savings.
The Green Web Foundation
The Green Web Foundation believes that one day, the Internet will be run entirely from renewable energy sources, and it’s developing green measuring tools to speed up the transition. Managed in Sweden by a growing group of dedicated volunteers and IT specialists worldwide, its members are all supporters of an Internet powered entirely by nature. Founded in 2006, their work today has resulted in a system by which the greenness of any website can be checked. In 2010, they released a green web app that has since served over half a billion checks monitoring the emergence of The Green Web.
Building and certifying a green data center can be an expensive proposition upfront, but long-term cost savings can be realized on operations and maintenance. Besides carbon emissions, there are other criteria to be measured for green certification, including the environmental impacts of rotating fans, the temperature of the cooling towers, the reflectivity of the windows, and even the way in which these facilities store fuels and glycol coolants.
TeraGo Networks Colocation Facility in Mississauga Ontario, Canada
The construction and operation of Terago Networks Cloud Service data center in Mississauga Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, implements several green tactics. Purposely built to be highly efficient with smart mechanical advantages, efficient LED lighting, and advanced electrical and computer systems, the entire green data center is engineered for maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact. Low-emission building materials, carpets, and paints are some of the finishing touches in this sophisticated cloud storage structure.
Pictures from the facility’s grand opening on Thursday, May 14th, 2015, show a tour group exploring the green landscape outside en route to the external power station, where ten generators are contained for use in emergencies. Each diesel generator contained in this latent power source has the latest catalytic converters installed as part of its exhaust system to reduce harmful emissions in the event it must be started; the generators only come on in emergencies or when there are fluctuations in the Ontario hydropower grid.
Sustainable landscaping is also important. Property managers use electric vehicles and green fertilizers, composting the leaves from the trees on property to make soil as necessary. The facility uses LED lighting systems, including small strips at the back of each cabinet in the data center. The lights come on only when someone is working below, and even then, they only illuminate that area. The roof has hyper-efficient heat pumps and uses evaporative cooling technologies to keep cool air cycling through the machines below. This particular facility is also built in such a way as to utilize the naturally cold Canadian climate.
There’s also growing pressure from environmentalists and increasingly from the general public for governments to offer more green incentives and monetary support for the creation and maintenance of ecologically responsible jobs. This new information storage facility marks another step in our collective evolution toward a greener society.