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Dropbox shares datacentre sustainability strategy as it plots to be 100% renewably powered by 2030

Cloud-based file sync and share giant goes public with plans to run all its datacentres on renewable power by 2030

Dropbox has lifted the lid on the work it is doing to improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of its datacentre estate as part of its quest to ensure all its server farms run on renewable energy by 2030.

The cloud-based file sync and share giant, which operates datacentres in the UK, the US, Australia, Germany and Japan, said its sustainability efforts to date have focused on three core areas: introducing energy efficiency measures to drive down its power usage effectiveness (PUE) score; taking steps to optimise the overall power consumption habits of its sites using automation and monitoring; and ramping up its use of renewable energy.

These actions have already led to a 15% reduction in the carbon footprint of Dropbox’s datacentres over the past 18 months, it claimed.

The company said its PUE score is 17% lower than the industry average, which it achieved by using outside air to cool its facilities and improving the thermal containment of its datacentres.

Automation is also playing a growing role in how it runs its datacentres, said Dropbox, which has led to sever-level energy-efficiency improvements.

“At our datacentres, we have a continuous flow of servers that reach their end of life,” the company said in a statement. “Our engineers used to decommission those servers manually. We are now leveraging a new Pirlo system that automatically powers down a server host immediately after it is out of service. This has saved us an estimated 5% in power over each server’s lifespan.”

On a related note, Dropbox has taken action to reduce the amount of energy used by its servers when they are in an idle state, while also taking steps to curb the overprovisioning of its compute resources.

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“We are in the process of introducing a new state in our datacentres, HDD standby, which will yield approximately 50% power savings on storage hosts and 25% on HDFS [Hadoop Distributed Files System] hosts, while still allowing the servers to be accessible if needed,” the company added.

“We have also expanded the team that monitors supply and demand and moved to a monthly planning model so that we can ensure capacity is being properly used at all times. This will enable us to build a more reliable model with more data points, which will increase accountability and allow us to quickly make changes when needed.”

Dropbox said it is also committed to making “significant investments” in the procurement of renewable energy during 2021, and ensuring the power used to run its datacentres is 100% carbon neutral.

This process will be complicated somewhat, it said, because the custom-built, multi-exabyte infrastructure it uses to run its services relies on a mix of both on-premise and public cloud storage.

“[Because of that] we have unique challenges to curbing our footprint in different local regions,” the Dropbox statement added. “That’s why we are actively partnering with public utilities and landlords, as well as our cloud partners, to make sure we are meeting these goals globally.”

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