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:

  1. Electricity demand: Though energy consumption per device has been leveling off for years, the demand for electricity to power end-user devices and data centers is multiplying due to an explosion in data and devices, increasing IT’s overall carbon footprint. 
  2. Water utilization: Datacenter providers consume billions of gallons of water each year, either evaporating it into the atmosphere or transferring it to wastewater facilities. We also do a poor job of factoring in the impacts of water capture, water treatment, water transport, and water disposal in our sustainability efforts.
  3. Materials impact: Sustainability in IT must factor in the impacts of manufacturing and assembly, including power consumption, water consumption, and raw material consumption. In addition, the environmental effect of using materials, like lithium, tantalum, cadmium, and aluminum, isn’t trivial, whether those materials are mined, reused, or disposed of.
  4. Disposal: Equipment disposal is a massive task that some organizations and governments do well, and others do poorly, and there’s very little insight into how to manage that problem holistically.
  5. Inconsistent information: We also know that some IT organizations use more resources than others, but getting detailed, consistent information, provider by provider, data center by data center, is nearly impossible. 

 

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?

We need new metrics to help us track, analyze, and act upon what’s happening in the data center across the entire IT lifecycle. 

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. 

We need a way to share data transparently.

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.

 

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Chad Romine

Chad Romine has over two decades of experience in technical and strategic business development. As Vice President of Business Development for Nautilus Data Technologies, Mr. Romine brings global connectivity to some of the most prominent global influencers in technology. Mr. Romine has led startups and under-performing companies to successful maturity built largely upon solid partnerships. Proven results in negotiating mutually beneficial strategic alliances and joint ventures. Outside of work, Chad has invested time fundraising for the American Cancer Society. Mr. Romine recently helped secure funding and led marketing for the completion of a new private University.

Ashley Sturm

Ashley Sturm is a marketing and strategy leader with more than 15 years of experience developing strategic marketing initiatives to increase brand affinity, shape the customer experience, and grow market share. As the Vice President of Marketing at Nautilus Data Technologies, Ashley is responsible for all global marketing initiatives; she integrates the corporate strategy, marketing, branding, and customer experience to best serve clients and produce real business results. Before joining Nautilus Data Technologies, she served as the Senior Director of Marketing Brand and Content for NTT Global Data Centers Americas, spearheading marketing efforts to open two out of six data center campuses. Prior to NTT, Ashley led global marketing through the startup of Vertiv’s Global Data Center Solutions business unit, where she developed the unit’s foundational messaging and established global and regional marketing teams. Ashley’s career experience includes extensive work with the US Navy through the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness as well as broadcast journalism. Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in converged media from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

Paul Royere

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

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.

Patrick Quirk

Patrick Quirk is a business and technology executive who specializes in operations management, strategic partnerships, and technology leadership in data center, telecommunications, software, and semiconductor markets. Prior to joining Nautilus, he spent the past year working with small businesses and non-profits on survival and growth strategies in addition to PE advisory roles for critical infrastructure acquisitions. Quirk was the President of Avocent Corp, a subsidiary of Vertiv, the Vice President and General Manager for the IT Systems business, and the VP/GM of Converged Systems at Emerson Network Power, providing data center management infrastructure for data center IT, power, and thermal management products. He has held numerous global leadership roles in startups and large multinational companies including LSI and Motorola in the networking and semiconductor markets.

Rob Pfleging

Most recently, Rob was the Senior Vice President of Global Solutions at Vertiv Co, formerly Emerson Network Power. Vertiv Co is an international company that designs, develops and maintains critical infrastructures that run vital applications in data centers, communication networks and commercial and industrial facilities. Rob was responsible for the global solutions line of business at ​​Vertiv, which serves the Americas, Europe and Asia. Prior to Vertiv, Rob was the Vice President of Expansion and Innovation, Datacenter Engineering at CenturyLink, where he was responsible for 55 datacenters across North America, Europe and Asia. Before working for CenturyLink, Rob was the Executive Director of Computer/Data Center Operations at Mercy, where he led datacenter engineering and operations, desktop field services, call center services, and asset management and logistics for more than 40 hospitals. Before fulfilling this mission at Mercy, Rob held various engineering management and sales positions at Schneider Electric. Rob Pfleging additionally served for 6 years in the United States Marine Corps.

James Connaughton

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.