Henkel Adhesive Technologies

Henkel Adhesive Technologies

Delivering long-term data center sustainability

In this article, we consider the key priorities for delivering data center sustainability, and the steps being taken to meet them.

Wayne Eng
Global Head of Market Strategy - Datacom & Telecom

5 min.
This is a photo of co-friendly building in the modern city. Green tree branches with leaves and sustainable glass building for reducing heat and carbon dioxide.

Ever-increasing global demand for digital services and data continues to drive strong data center growth. A March 2023 Research and Markets report1 forecasts the data center construction market is set to reach US$ 80.7 Billion by 2028, with a CAGR of 7.81% from 2022-2028.

This growth creates sustainability challenges for a sector that consumes large amounts of power and material resources. Data centers currently account for between 1 and 1.5% of global energy consumption, and this is projected to rise to 8% by 20302.

Data centers rely on water for cooling, and water is becoming a scarce resource in many parts of the world. Supplies of the materials used in IT infrastructure are finite, and, in some cases, such as rare metals, are becoming harder to source in the required quantities.

In the long term, innovations in data storage technology and advances in areas such as quantum computing may enable data centers to deliver more storage and compute power in a smaller footprint, but for now, data center sustainability is a key priority. In this article, we consider the key priorities for delivering data center sustainability, and the steps being taken to meet them.

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Priorities for data center sustainability

There are a number of clear priority areas where data centers can improve sustainability and reduce their environmental footprint.

Minimizing CO2 emissions

The greatest reduction in data center CO2 emissions will come as national power suppliers migrate to renewable power sources. However, according to the UN3, only around 29% of the world’s electricity came from renewables at the start of the 2020s, so there is still some way to go on this journey.

In the meantime, providers throughout the data center value chain are looking to achieve energy performance efficiencies in how IT, cooling and other powered infrastructure is used in the data center. Minimizing power consumption in data center components, regardless of the power source, makes good sense both economically and environmentally.

Combining the move to renewables with a constant focus on maximizing power efficiency is helping data centers work towards the industry goal of Net Zero by 2030. 

Moving towards water positivity

With water becoming a scarce resource, data center water consumption comes under increasing scrutiny, particularly for data centers in those parts of the world where there are shortages. The goal is not just to minimize data center water consumption, but to replenish more water than the data center uses to become water positive.

Microsoft4, AWS5 and Google6 are amongst those who have announced targets to be water positive by 2030.

Driving sustainability through the entire data center supply chain

The materials and processes used in building and equipping datacenters offer further scope to minimize the environmental impact and maximize sustainability.

Sustainability can be designed in at each stage, from the choice of raw materials, to manufacturing methods that minimize waste, to components that are designed to support the trend towards circular economies by enabling repair or refurbishment over longer periods, and recycling at end of life.

Tackling the priorities

Partners across the data center value chain can contribute to the sector, delivering on sustainability through innovations such as: 

  • More power-efficient and reliable processors. Higher processing components have a need for effective and efficient component cooling, and overheating can lead to component failures. Improved board-level component cooling using new designs and materials can deliver more power-efficient and reliable solutions.
  • Purifying non-potable wastewater or seawater for cooling, and switching to alternatives to water-based cooling where feasible, to enable water positivity.
  • Focusing on sustainability in all aspects of component production, using materials and processes that maximize product life, minimize environmental impacts of production, and facilitate reuse and recycling at end of life.

Henkel’s expertise in materials solutions, our long pedigree of innovation and collaboration across key industry sectors, and our commitment to sustainability, positions us ideally to work with OEMs and providers in delivering a sustainable future for data centers.

What next?

Delivering long-term sustainability in the data center environment requires a process of continual innovation and collaboration across the value chain. Here at Henkel, we are excited to bring our expertise in materials technologies to make our contribution to that process. Reach out to me on LinkedIn, where I’ll be glad to continue the conversation.

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