In this guest post, Miriam Murphy, European CEO of IT services provider NTT, sets out the problem businesses face when trying to “green-up” their data storage estates
After another summer of extreme weather events and with COP28 just finishing up, sustainability is very much top of the boardroom agenda. We’re long past the stage of convincing business leaders of the need for sustainability: there is an unequivocal understanding that it is vital to future success.
Despite this, recent research from NTT reveals that only 38% of organisations have successfully implemented a comprehensive business-wide strategy for sustainable operations. It’s clear that this isn’t for want of trying. However, there simply isn’t enough attention being paid to one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions: data.
While recycling and waste reduction initiatives are dominating the headlines, one key challenge that many businesses are struggling with, but currently unaware of its impact, is data storage. In fact, almost two-thirds (60%) of business data is currently unused and storing this is having a significant impact on energy consumption and broader sustainability goals.
Datacentres alone contribute to between 2.5 and 3.7% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, which is more than the often-maligned aviation industry.
So how can businesses overcome the data challenge when it comes to sustainability?
Most businesses now have well-intentioned sustainability initiatives in place, with both internal and external incentives for reducing emissions. However, while 58% of business leaders view their IT departments as crucial in driving these initiatives, NTT’s data found that IT operators don’t always view the removal of unnecessary and unwanted data from data estates as a top working priority. Instead, efforts are being directed towards purchasing and installing energy efficient equipment.
For many IT professionals, data waste disposal can be an overwhelming task. Not only do they need to jump through hoops to get organisational agreement, the risk of permanently deleting something useful or something which might have future importance adds a new layer of pressure.
Many businesses also struggle with accessing the right help and advice. In fact, when asked what is holding them back from furthering their sustainability agenda, half of business leaders state that one of their main challenges is having to work with suppliers that do not share their vision and goals. This can make the road to becoming a more sustainable business even more challenging. This is where partnerships come in.
Rather than making data waste disposal an ‘IT team problem’, organisations should actively seek guidance from partners and industry experts to help expedite and optimise the process of decluttering their data assets and start reducing emissions. Partners are a vital asset that can assist with everything from consulting, technology audits, and strategy, to roadmap designs, implementation, and governance services.
Beyond that, smarter data storage solutions are going to play a big role in tackling the environmental impact of data management. As every aspect of our lives becomes increasingly digital, data storage needs are going to continue to rise. There’s no getting away from that, but if organisations can begin to implement more intelligent data storage practices to help. Crucially, organisations should be on the lookout for data storage systems with the following capabilities:
- Intelligent storage provisioning: A common occurrence, overprovisioning of storage in data centers can kill utilisation. Organisations should embrace intelligent storage-provisioning mechanisms that allocate resources based on actual demand – a much more efficient approach. ‘Thin provision’ eliminates wasteful overprovisioning, which helps reduce power consumption. Intelligently placing data on appropriate storage types with optimal redundancy levels maximises resource utilisation and power efficiency.
- Data deduplication and compression: Data deduplication and compression techniques will help IT operators trim stored-data volume and reduce power consumption. Deduplication eliminates redundancy by only storing unique instances of data assets, while compression reduces data size. These techniques keep storage capacity requirements down, reducing power needs for storage devices and associated cooling systems.
- Tiered storage architecture: By aligning data placement with its access patterns, overall power usage for storage can be optimised. Tiered storage architecture enables datacentres to match the performance and power requirements of data with the best storage tier.
These kinds of solutions are already available on the market and could make a huge difference to the 62% of businesses who have struggled to make their sustainability initiatives a success.
The key to a more sustainable future
While the headlines can often make it seem like we’re losing the sustainability battle, today’s businesses are well positioned to address these setbacks head on. There is widespread recognition of the importance and value of sustainability, and the tools to make it happen are readily available.
But to access and effectively use these tools, we must prioritise collaboration. Sustainability is not an issue anyone can solve on their own, so partnerships are key – not just for the provision of technology, but also for the insight that makes its implementation successful. Through connecting with partners and industry experts, business leaders can streamline their data processes, and ensure that data storage doesn’t become a speedbump on the road to a more sustainable future.