Sustainable Data Centers: What Role Does Fiber Play?

Sustainable Data Centers

Environmental sustainability is increasingly an important competitive consideration for many of the most forward-looking enterprises. These companies are consistently striving for ways to optimize resources – and for many, that includes the resources deployed within their data centers. Therefore, more sustainable data centers are becoming more important. 

Almost all of the world’s internet traffic goes through data centers. The insatiable demand for internet connectivity is driving the consumption of power inside those data centers to unimagined levels. For instance, streaming Netflix for just one hour consumes enough electricity to drive a Tesla Model S roughly 20 miles.

Sustainable Data Centers: Power Consumption to Reach 10% of Global Supply by 2030

According to the IEA, global data center electricity demand in 2019 reached almost 1% of total electricity and is forecasted to grow to consume almost 10% by 2030. Increasing power consumption and the CO2 emissions that result are a big concern for all of us.

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Power is a crucial consideration in the selection of the data center. The source of that power is growing in importance with the volatility of prices in the carbon energy market and the proliferation of corporate sustainability goals. In the US, renewable power generation is expected to outpace electricity demand growth by 2025, which should create opportunities to increase the mix of renewable power consumed in the data center.

Increased internet traffic and the consequent growth in power consumption will continue to put economic and environmental pressure on forward-looking businesses. Squeezing every ounce of efficiency out of data center deployments only adds to that pressure. While servers get the most attention, network hardware can be a fairly sizable consumer of power and space – not to mention generating a fair amount of heat. These factors are leading many advanced digital businesses to consider alternatives in their networking hardware.

As legacy fiber networks age, the hardware required to push bandwidth through those fibers becomes more complex. Older fiber networks with higher signal loss require more forgiving network hardware. These devices can be high consumers of power and generate a substantial amount of heat. The GSMA estimates the power consumed by network devices adds 20 to 40% to total operating expenses inside a data center.

Single-Span Point-to-Point Links Can Leverage SFPs to Reduce Space/Power Needs

Meanwhile, new fiber networks with low signal loss can be optimized with network hardware that consume far less space and power. Single-span point-to-point links can take advantage of small form-factor pluggables (SFPs) for distances inside of 10Km and in some cases up to 40Km.

SFPs consume 10% of the power and take up a fraction of the space a typical WDM chassis would – not to mention, generating far less heat. Clients deploying this type of hardware are achieving 100Gbps and in some cases up to 400Gbps across those links. Critical to achieving that higher bandwidth is a ‘clean’ set of fibers (low signal loss) which is more likely to be found in new fiber networks.

The Case to Replace Legacy Fiber Networks

New, purpose-built fiber networks that minimize latency and signal loss are quickly becoming vital elements of the infrastructure for many corporations. Not only do they allow those businesses to push higher bandwidth, they also reduce the consumption of both space and power inside the data center. Those efficiencies lend to more sustainable data centers and can add up to a material reduction of the carbon footprint for the digital enterprise.

At Bandwidth IG, our network is brand-new and purpose-built to minimize latency and signal loss – and to maximize diversity. This makes our network ideal for deploying SFPs and thereby helping our customers reduce their carbon footprint.

We don’t believe it is a leap of faith to say that older legacy networks will need to be decommissioned and replaced in order to support current and future sustainability imperatives. The need to support new technology growth, and what looks like permanently changed demand patterns, will continue to put pressure on older existing networks. When you add in the benefit of substantially reduced power consumption required to run new fiber networks, the case to replace is a no-brainer.

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