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Insights > Blog

The State of Tech Sustainability

By David Cantu | Posted on June 21, 2024 | Posted in Enterprise IT and Infrastructure

There are approximately 10,978 datacenters worldwide, and nearly half of them are in the United States.  

To power all these locations globally requires roughly 416 terawatts—or 3% of all the electricity generated on our planet in a year.  

That may not seem like a lot but given that 80% of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels, it’s no wonder datacenters in the U.S. alone are responsible for an estimated 2% of our greenhouse gas emissions. 

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To reduce all this energy usage, tech companies continue to invest billions of dollars annually to be less reliant on non-renewable energy. All that investment is paying off. Amazon, for example, is on a path to achieve 100% renewable energy next year and net zero carbon by 2040. 

But investment dollars are just one of the levers available for making datacenters, and the tech industry as a whole, more sustainable. And since the growth of generative artificial intelligence (AI) is only going to require more and more energy (renewable and otherwise) to be diverted to datacenters, the other levers have taken on greater importance. 

Beyond the electricity required to simply make racks of servers function, another datacenter need is cooling.  

Servers run hot even in non-peak usage times and cooling them accounts for roughly 45% of datacenter power usage. And although innovations like liquid cooling are certainly more efficient than the massive air conditioning units used to cool datacenters decades ago, they are by no means sustainable solutions on their own. 

In fact, large-scale datacenters like those in place to power the public cloud can use anywhere between 1 million to five million gallons of water each day or as much as a town of 50,000 people uses. And since a great many of those datacenters are in locations where water is not exactly in abundance, the tech conglomerates that own them have been forced to get creative.  

Amazon, for one, has invested heavily in initiatives like reclaimed water infrastructure, evaporative cooling, and the recycling of cooling water to keep AWS datacenters cool. And Microsoft, Google, and Meta have similar initiatives in place, all of which are making a real difference. 

Beyond the datacenter 

There are other smaller areas beyond datacenters where the tech industry is dramatically reducing its environmental impact. These areas include:

  • More efficient hardware production and supply chains 
  • Recycled and responsibly sourced materials for device manufacturing 
  • Biodegradable materials and minimalist designs in packaging 
  • Extending product life cycles 

Sustainability is not just about creating and adopting greener technologies, however. It’s also about reimagining the processes and workflows to minimize waste and maximize efficiency. 

Companies embracing agile methodologies and continuous improvement frameworks to optimize workflows and reduce time-to-market can greatly minimize their resource consumption and environmental impact.  

Additionally, the concept of “green IT” is driving efforts to optimize energy usage in computing systems and networks, from hardware configuration to software optimization.  

And even as AI is leading to more resource usage in datacenters and beyond, it’s also being used to identify inefficiencies and optimize resource allocation in real time. Predictive maintenance algorithms, for example, help prevent equipment failures and reduce downtime, lowering energy consumption. 

The tech industry is also playing a pivotal role in driving sustainable behaviors among consumers and businesses.  

Smart home technologies, for instance, enable users to monitor and optimize energy usage, reducing consumption and lowering utility bills. Similarly, transportation apps facilitate carpooling and public transit usage, reducing carbon emissions from individual vehicles. 

In the business sector, cloud-based solutions and collaboration platforms streamline operations, leading to reduced travel and resource consumption. Virtual meetings, digital document management, and remote work capabilities not only enhance productivity but also minimize the environmental impact associated with traditional business practices. 

Working toward greener tech 

As a technology solutions provider, Redapt is committed to working with our partners and customers to make technology more sustainable. 

One of the ways we are making an impact is through cloud cost optimization. A dollar saved in the public cloud correlates to a unit of carbon saved, so the more we can help organizations shut down unnecessary—and expensive—resources in their cloud environments, the more they are able to reduce their environmental footprint. 

Similarly, our work as a managed services provider of both on-premises and datacenter infrastructure is designed around maximizing efficiency. By assembling racks of servers internally—including wiring, optimizing, and packaging—we are able to minimize shipping and increase the efficiency in which new hardware is deployed. 

Additional solutions we provide include app modernization to make applications as efficient as possible in the cloud, AI and machine learning capabilities to streamline operations and reduce waste, and devices designed with our partner ZutaCore that utilize waterless cooling to use 50% less energy.  

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Still work to be done 

Sustainability in tech doesn’t have a finish line. Every innovation will likely require more power to function, more cooling—and leave a bigger mark on the climate. 

But by focusing on being more efficient both on the macro and micro level, the tech industry can dramatically reduce its environmental impact and help more organizations across industries achieve their vital sustainability goals. 

There’s still a lot of work to do, but the same innovation that powers the tech industry can create a more sustainable planet. 

To learn more about how we can help your organization optimize its operations and hit your sustainability goals, schedule a clarity call with our experts today