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Data Centre Sustainability: The Curse of the Selfie

With the rise of social media and new advancements in technology such as 5G, Big Data, AI and IoT it’s an amazing world to live in... but did you ever consider the amount of energy wasted during this new era…?

At the Data Centre Re-transformation Conference held last month in Manchester, Uptime Institute revealed it requires 666GWh/year on average to store a selfie on the cloud (assuming the photo is 2.5MB and 6.5kWh/GB is required for annual storage, and given that on average each of the UK’s 41M cloud users store 1000 photos per year).

Have you ever taken a picture and then not used it after it was captured? Don’t worry you’re not alone, according to Uptime Institute 60-70 percent of photos are wasted after capture, which translates to 400GWh/year of data litter! That means millions of photos are sitting in the data centre unused, wasting space and clogging up the digital infrastructure. If we convert that information into a real-life situation the energy wasted is equivalent to that consumed by 100,000 European households every year! If we converted that unused energy into alternative sectors, it could power 1M Neonatal ventilators (the intensive care equipment that provides ventilatory support to preterm and critically ill infants) per year. This is something we need to consider in how much we waste and sustainability for the future. 

Furthermore, with the ever-present battle with climate change, people are now thinking about sustainability for water, oil and plastics, but don’t think about data centres and the finite source that must be used reasonably. We are now accustomed that in shops around the UK you will be charged for the use of plastic bags, this premise is now accepted and people are thinking about the sustainable change it has to the planet, but what about deleting useless photos, freeing up space in the cloud for more important data in sectors like healthcare? After all the cloud and data centres are not an endless source for consume.

As mentioned previously the rise in social media and cloud data usage means more users needing storage therefore, we have seen an increase of 25% in 3 years. According to the PEDCA project, the energy consumption of data centres in Europe was estimated to be just over 103 TWh/year in 2014, rising to 130 TWh/year in 2017 by EURECA. Further studies have been carried out with innovative engagement methodologies using state-of-the-art models and tools to decrease energy consummation and improve sustainability. Based on pilots involving 337 data centres, our contributions helped produce savings of over 131 GWh/year of primary energy (that’s 52.5 GWh/year of end-use energy). This equates to yearly savings of 27.83 thousand tCO2 per year and €7.159M electricity costs – all achieved from pilots. The success of the project has been celebrated by the EU itself, who in feedback evaluating the project stated that it had ‘delivered exceptional results with significant immediate or potential impact’.



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