How consolidating into the cloud can help enterprises achieve their green goals

In this guest post, Matt Watts, chief technology evangelist at data storage manufacturer NetApp, sets out the role that cloud can play in cutting enterprise energy bills

If data is an organisation’s most valuable asset then it makes sense to increase the volume of that asset, right?

This has been the typical mindset for the past decade and, as a result, worldwide data generation has grown exponentially. In fact, by 2025 the global “datasphere” is estimated to reach a staggering 180 zettabytes.

But data doesn’t come for free. And we don’t keep it for free either.  The collection, collation, crunching, storage, and protection of an organisation’s data is expensive. And the costs are growing. Thanks to rising energy prices, and an impending energy crisis, organisations are becoming concerned over their data costs. Very concerned.

The value of data is, however, beyond dispute. The way we generate and use data isn’t going to disappear from our lives, so businesses must find ways to identify potential infrastructure savings and eliminate waste.

From both an environmental and a bottom-line perspective, data waste is shocking. As much as 70% of the data generated by organisations will never be used again, whether it’s because it is stuck in siloes, in conflicting formats, or simply because it’s just data that serves no further purpose beyond what  it was created for.

One answer could be to relocate data and workloads to the public cloud, drawing on the resources of hyperscale providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Able to operate at scale and invest in some of the world’s most efficient datacentre infrastructure, these providers are able to make rapid progress towards becoming net zero.

According to the National Grid, in 2020, the UK’s 400 – 600 known commercial datacentres were consuming about 3.6TWh of electricity annually.

With energy prices skyrocketing, many of these datacentres are likely to have negotiated long, fixed-term energy pricing contracts that an organisation going it alone with their own IT infrastructure simply wouldn’t be able to access.

For all the organisations that can’t engage in similar energy price negotiations, then what do the increases amount to? A midrange storage array consumes about 150,000kWh of electricity over five years, and then you need to multiply this by the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of the datacentre to get the total facility power consumed. The average PUE is 1.57, so we’re now at 235,500kWh.

At 17p per kWh that means an electricity cost of £40,035 over 5 years. The last price increase to 77p per kWh increased that to £181,335.

And that’s just for storage – which is approximately 18% of the total datacentre power consumption. The total cost for power in this scenario has risen from £222,417 to £1,007,416 over five years.

That’s an extra £157,000 per year, just for electricity, for a very small datacentre and assumes no growth. Medium to large organisations will be seeing significantly higher numbers with million pound or more increases every single year being common.

For businesses looking to reduce the cost and impact on the environment their data has, they must develop and embrace a digital presence, and cultivate digital assets. As they improve their business processes, and become more data-driven, they must find ways to create an environment that’s conducive to the use of digital technology.

One way of doing this in a systematic and effective way is by creating and following a data strategy which has data minimalism at the heart of it. By ensuring only the data needed is stored, businesses will be able to cut costs, while also being one step closer to meeting their Environmental, Social Governance (ESG) targets.

Practicing data minimalism

So how can businesses refine and evolve their data strategy to ensure they are practising data minimalism? Well, it starts with truly understanding the data footprint they have. Asking questions such as:

  • How much resides on-premises, in the cloud or in other locations?
  • What data does an organisation need to collect and how is it being used?
  • What data is mission-critical, and what can be retained on more of an archive basis?

Making informed decisions can only happen once leaders are across all these details. Once a business knows what their current data footprint looks like, they can then start to consider their options.

Bringing on board a trusted advisor at thi stage might be useful to help provide extra support here. For example, are there ways to become more efficient about where data is being saved? Can some storage locations be consolidated to save costs?

Cloud computing can help, and though it isn’t a full answer, it can improve the situation, allowing businesses to draw on the expertise of vendors that can offer the analytics and understanding to make better environmental decisions. With help, organisations can reduce both their energy cost exposures and their carbon emissions – finding a data infrastructure solution that doesn’t cost and impact the earth.

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Data Management