We’ve heard many technology firms proclaim their commitment to sustainability, and there’s no doubt that they truly care. Whether announcing commitments to using renewable power supplies, cutting water consumption, reducing the use of cooling refrigerants, or establishing refurbishment and recycling programs, their efforts matter. There’s no question that IT companies are trying to make IT a more sustainable industry.
The reality on the ground is that IT continues to consume resources, consumption is accelerating, and we, collectively in the IT industry, can do more to make IT sustainable. As leaders in the industry, making IT more sustainable is our operating philosophy, and we believe that it can and should be more sustainable.
But any IT organization, if asked, admits that they’re facing substantial obstacles toward making IT more sustainable:
For all these reasons and more, doubts remain about the possibilities of making IT more sustainable. It would be relatively easy to address these problems piecemeal, but if you take a step back, you can perceive that they all stem from IT’s failure to embrace and manage the entire lifecycle of IT, from design to disposal.
We think that managing the entire IT lifecycle is the key to making the industry more sustainable. Other industries do this — in those industries, suppliers, vendors, and users gather real-world information over days, months, and years, provide it seamlessly and transparently, and use it to make end-to-end improvements. In our industry, all the suppliers, designers, vendors, data center providers, and disposal companies rarely share data transparently, as an integrated whole, providing the insights needed to make improvements.
The key to insight and accurate decision-making is working with real-world data, understanding just what IT infrastructure does, both as discrete devices and as a collective whole. For IT, that means the data center is the engine of sustainability — it’s where we get the real-world data. The information we gather in day-to-day data center operations, and the information we use to refine how we operate our data centers (through analytics), could give public and private organizations compelling insight to address the environmental and social footprint of IT.
It’s natural for societies to expect technology manufacturers and data center providers to help make infrastructure more sustainable across the entire lifecycle by providing and analyzing data. We should be using our own tools, on ourselves, to discern and improve what we’re doing.
The ability to see opportunities for more harmonious and productive use of IT could have a massive impact on societies, politics, and industry.
However, to see the possibilities, IT organizations have to be more transparent about what they’re doing, the environmental impacts, and their efforts to change the game. Unfortunately, one of the biggest obstacles to that effort is metrics.
We’ve had some metrics for years, like PUE, that help us manage IT sustainably. They give us insight into energy utilization. We’ve seen, both on the public policy side and the vendor side, efforts around energy efficiency driven by the measurement of PUE. But we can’t improve what we can’t measure.
And without measurement, we can’t be transparent.
What do we need to move forward?
Some organizations are rallying around ESG — Environmental, Social, and Governance practices, which aim to sustainably manage environmental impacts. ESG policies focus on, among other areas:
ESG initiatives stress the importance of regular and transparent performance with both public and private stakeholders. For example, ESG rating organizations help score business efforts so policymakers and the public can see who’s doing well, and who is lagging behind.
Suppose we can get to an agreed-upon metric that spans everything in the data center from design to recycling. In that case, we’d be in a stronger position to manage impacts, make improvements, and be transparent at any point in the lifecycle.
Unfortunately, at the moment, different companies involved at various stages of the lifecycle aren’t talking with one another. Building connections between hardware designers, manufacturers, data center providers, and reuse/repurpose/recyclers are needed so design decisions support full lifecycle sustainability. Today, we have dozens of disconnected sustainability efforts, many of which are based on lab data instead of real-world testing, instead of an integrated approach, based on clarity and transparency, that improves sustainability everywhere for everyone.
So we have some insight on where the industry needs to go, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime, it’s important to take stock of what your data center provider can do to manage these challenges. At a minimum, a progressive, forward-looking data center provider should give you:
In conclusion, we see that the best way forward for sustainability improvements comes from a lifecycle management focus, across the entire supply chain, that builds on increased transparency, better metrics, and more collaboration. As a market leader in sustainable IT, we’re committed to trying to influence and guide the industry toward a more sustainable, transparent future.
To learn how we’re making a positive impact by basing the foundation of our company in sustainability, check out our Yearly Impact Report.
Paul Royere is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Nautilus Data Technologies. For more than twenty years, he has specialized in finance and administration leadership for emerging technology companies, guiding them through high growth commercialization. In addition to senior team roles guiding strategic business operations, Mr. Royere has directed cross-functional teams in implementing business support systems, designing and measuring business plan performance, leading pre/post-merger activities, and delivering requisite corporate, tax and audit compliance.
While at 365 Data Centers, Mr. Royere served as Vice President of Finance leading a multi-discipline restructuring in preparation for the successful sale of seventeen data centers. As Vice President and Corporate Controller at Reliance Globalcom, Royere led the finance and business support teams to and through the conversion from a privately held company to a subsidiary of an international public conglomerate.
Arnold Magcale is founder and Chief Technology Officer of Nautilus Data Technologies. As a recognized leader and respected visionary in the technology industry, he specializes in data center infrastructure, high-availability networks, cloud design, and Software as a Service (SaaS) Technology.
While serving on the management team of Exodus Communications, he launched one of Silicon Valley’s first data centers. Mr. Magcale’s background includes executive positions at Motorola Mobility, where his team deployed the first global Droid devices, and LinkSource Technologies and The Quantum Capital Fund, serving as Chief Technology Officer. He was an early adopter and implementer of Cloud Computing and a member of the team at Danger, Inc., acquired by Microsoft.
Mr. Magcale had a distinguished ten year career in the United States Navy Special Forces. His military and maritime expertise provided the foundation for inventing the world’s first commercial waterborne data center.
James Connaughton is a globally distinguished energy, environment, technology expert, as both corporate leader and White House policymaker. Mr. Connaughton is the CEO of Nautilus Data Technologies, a high-performance, ultra-efficient, and sustainable data center infrastructure company powered by its proprietary water-cooling system. Before joining Nautilus Data Technologies, he served as Executive Vice President of C3.ai, a leading enterprise AI software provider for accelerating digital transformation.
From 2009-2013, Mr. Connaughton was Executive Vice President and a member of the Management Committee of Exelon and Constellation Energy, two of America’s cleanest, competitive suppliers of electricity, natural gas, and energy services. In 2001, Mr. Connaughton was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to serve as Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He served as President George W. Bush’s senior advisor on energy, environment, and natural resources, and as Director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy. During his eight-year service, Mr. Connaughton worked closely with the President, the Cabinet, and the Congress to develop and implement energy, environment, natural resource, and climate change policies. An avid ocean conservationist, Mr. Connaughton helped establish four of the largest and most ecologically diverse marine resource conservation areas in the world.
Mr. Connaughton is a member of the Advisory Board of the ClearPath Foundation and serves as an Advisor to X (Google’s Moonshot Factory) and Shine Technologies, a medical and commercial isotope company. He is also a member of the Board of Directors at the Resources for the Future and a member of the Advisory Boards at Yale’s Center on Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia’s Global Center on Energy Policy.