Cleaning Out the Server Closet

This article was originally published by DZone


From the world’s largest companies to smaller enterprises, sustainable practices and environmental stewardship are core to a successful business strategy. Once seen as a forward-thinking competitive advantage, sustainability has evolved into a necessity in the global economy and a key consideration for enterprises.

Since global internet usage accounts for 3.7% of all global emissions, companies are looking for energy-conscious solutions that don’t affect performance or scalability. A recent survey found that 80% of enterprises strongly consider environmental impacts when choosing larger internet providers.  To meet these enterprise demands, many large network providers are moving to renewable network solutions.

As businesses strive to become more sustainable, they are increasingly turning to the cloud to reduce their environmental impact. Cloud computing is not only more flexible and scalable than traditional server-based models, but it also requires less energy to operate. As a result, businesses can significantly reduce their carbon footprint by moving their data to the cloud.

The 80/20 Rule

At the Data Cloud Conference in Stockholm a couple of years ago, Derek Webster, CEO and Founder of Andget Limited, joked to a packed audience that “80 percent of enterprise data could be stored on the moon.” This was a funny comment, but also an astute point. In the past, data needed to be stored locally to avoid affecting customer service quality. Some applications still need ultra-low latency and must be close to server resources. This includes applications in the banking and financial industries.

However, most applications can be stored farther away from on-premises servers without affecting performance. Even data-rich applications like IoT applications can be supported by data centers outside of big cities. Through cloud computing, enterprises can store their applications in data centers that don’t suffer from the power and space limits of major metro areas like New York City, Frankfurt, or Paris.

Data centers located in cities with access to renewable energy sources are the best option for enterprises trying to meet their sustainability goals. For example, the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland) have some of the cleanest energy in the world. Over 80 percent of their electricity comes from hydropower and other renewable sources. That means data centers in the Nordic region operate with a much smaller carbon footprint than those in other parts of the world.

Data centers in these regions and even certain US cities, including Hillsboro, Oregon and Phoenix, Arizona, are better places for sustainable data centers than larger US cities. Users rarely notice a slight delay in loading times for non-sensitive applications. As a result, enterprises can save money by storing these applications in energy-efficient data centers that have a lower carbon footprint.

Moving Out of the Server Room to the Cloud

In recent years, enterprises moved their server infrastructure to the cloud. However, this shift has presented many challenges. One challenge has been ensuring that servers can meet the processing demands of the cloud. As a result, many enterprises are investing in new server infrastructure. This trend will likely continue in the coming years as the cloud evolves.

The recycling of old server equipment is another challenge enterprises face. Power-hungry servers are not good for the environment, but recycling them can be difficult and costly. To solve this, many enterprises are buying new servers instead of recycling their old ones. As anyone who has ever owned an old refrigerator knows, they can be expensive and energy-consuming to run, especially compared to newer models. This train of thought is true not only for household appliances but also for network infrastructure.

The Old Way vs. The New Way of Building the Internet

Wide Area Networks (WANs) were built with a centralized architecture, meaning that all traffic had to travel back to the headquarters in order to be processed. This created bottlenecks, resulting in poor performance for end users. However, with the advent of Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN), it is now possible to build networks with a distributed architecture. This means traffic can be routed locally, reducing latency and improving performance. In the end, this new way of building networks is more environmentally friendly, using local resources rather than having to travel the wider internet.

In addition, network automation, driven by smart algorithms, can help predict new services in real-time and reduce response time for performance issues. Initially, automation improves operational efficiency and performance speed. In the long term, automated technology results in shorter lead times for new equipment. Since automation can anticipate and prevent outages, it reduces truck rollouts, resulting in fewer carbon emissions with fewer delivery trucks on the road carrying out manual remediation. The more you automate your network, the better your applications will perform. As your applications perform better, they use fewer resources and lessen your network’s carbon footprint.

The world is driving telecom operators to an open, environmentally-friendly network through open optical and open IP initiatives.

As enterprise providers need more flexibility and less single-supplier dependence, service providers are being driven to an open ecosystem model. In the old world of telecom networking, once a supplier won a contract with an enterprise provider, the enterprise was in that wholesale network for 5-10 years and had to rely on a single wholesaler’s services. The supplier focused only on performance, not on sustainability.

These contracts are now shorter. Wholesale suppliers must provide better gear yearly because they aren’t guaranteed a long partnership. They can no longer rely on closed systems to deliver services to enterprise providers. Because of this industry shift, suppliers are using open ecosystems to deliver diverse cloud platforms and services while providing cost savings for enterprises through sustainable cloud storage.

Enterprise Considerations When Choosing Their Connectivity Partner

Enterprises must choose a wholesale supplier that uses an open ecosystem model to connect sustainably to various cloud environments across continents. Global reach, an open ecosystem model, and a reduced carbon footprint strategy are the most important factors when choosing the best wholesale choice for an enterprise network.

With so many different cloud platforms, applications, and services, an open ecosystem model plays an important role in sustainable networking. A global operator with an open network of sustainable data centers can connect enterprises to the resources they need to meet their business and sustainability goals.

Mattias Fridström, Chief Evangelist