All day long for the future: Sustainability in the data center

5 fields of action for the ecological IT future of your company
All day long for the future: Sustainability in the data center



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Technology should help make the world a little better. It starts with ecological sustainability and reducing emissions in production: the single-use industry is increasingly being replaced by the “healthy” one, as it is a sustainable and circular economy. However, the English term “sustainability” goes further. It covers ethics and business activities, employee diversity and inclusion, as well as other social elements. Such fundamental changes don’t happen overnight.

Dell Technologies’ sustainability program includes ethnic integration, gender equality, and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing, shipping and packaging.

(Photo: Dell Technologies)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), introduced by UN member states in 2015, describe a global vision of peace and well-being for people and the planet. However, the SDGs describe goals for 2050.

A leader instead of being left behind – in this way your company becomes a pioneer of sustainable development

It is too late for the famous Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Dell Technologies sees it in a similar way: with the latest server technology and topology, the main supplier is already making a significant contribution to sustainability.

Action field 1: Avoid e-waste

For modern companies, the circular system should become the standard for purchasing, use and disposal in order to implement sustainable development also in the data center. Therefore, e-waste should be minimized and a thing of the past. Already today 95 percent of Dell servers are overhauled and reused. The remaining 5 percent is recycled under local regulations (eg EPA in the US, WEEE in Europe, and NTCRS in Australia).

Sustainable development is more and more often considered by the employees sought as a criterion for choosing an employer. IT managers are also required to meet sustainability criteria to give their company an image and a competitive advantage.

Brief Fact Check: As early as 1999, packaging recycling models were introduced. Today, around 85 percent are made of recycled or renewable materials. Since 2012, Dell has used more than 45,000 tons of environmentally friendly materials in its products thanks to innovative product design.

Since 2007, we have recycled over 907,000 tonnes of used electronic parts. By 2030, the goal is to reuse or recycle an equivalent product for every product purchased by the customer, and to produce 100% packaging from recycled or renewable materials.

Achieving these lofty goals requires a combination of technological innovation (e.g. server energy efficiency) and integration throughout the value chain to promote a circular economy. Growth should be decoupled from resource use and clean energy sources should be used.

Action field 2: Pay attention to energy efficiency and the “right” processors

Performance and energy efficiency often play a decisive role when choosing server hardware. IT decision makers should ensure that their choices are based on the latest technology, especially with regard to the installed processors.

The more power a device provides, the less it is operated, cooled, upgraded or refurbished in the data center. Since 2013, the power consumption of Dell PowerEdge servers has been reduced by 83 percent to the current 15G version. It took six servers to deliver the performance that one device can deliver today. This is due to the installation of the latest generation of processors, for example AMD or Intel. Likewise, more efficient power supplies (PSUs) from vendors as another example.

For example, manufacturer AMD changed its processors from 14 to 7 nanometers to increase component performance. With the generation of ZEN, the number of computational cycles per core has already increased by 52 percent. In current EPYC server processors, up to nine chiplets (subprocessors in the processor unit) now work with optimized cache usage. This gives you up to 64 cores and 128 threads per server, which, thanks to built-in intelligence (AI), only turn on when needed.

In short: the energy efficiency has been significantly increased and the energy consumption per processor unit has been reduced. AMD EPYC processors are therefore sold as the most energy-efficient x86 server processors, which is confirmed, among others, by the SPEC Power Benchmarks tests. To maintain this trend, AMD has set itself the ambitious goal of reducing the power consumption of processors and data center accelerators in the HPC environment by a factor of 30 by 2025.

Action field 3: Rely on intelligent server design

Other decision criteria should play an important role for IT managers. How innovative is the design of all equipment in terms of energy efficiency, cooling systems, electricity saving and thus sustainability? Design innovations developed by Dell’s development department increase performance at various levels. Some examples:

  • The disk carriers have thinner, bent metal edges that allow better airflow through the server chassis. In addition, the design of the motherboard has been modified in the T-shape, which better organizes the distribution of airflow throughout the structure of the server. These design modifications improve the use of the fan and power supply, reducing overall energy consumption.
  • Perforation patterns have been perfected on the front. They are more effective in preventing dust build-up inside the system. This improvement in airflow and fan efficiency reduces energy consumption and improves energy efficiency. This increase in air-cooling capacity throughout the chassis allows the equipment to continue to load on PowerEdge products, while other solutions must remain empty to avoid overheating.
  • Paint removed from the front of the server, hard drive trays, and rear handles. The front of the server has stitched edges, eliminating the need for painting, producing less air pollution and improving signal integrity.
  • Multi-vector cooling (MVC), Dell specific liquid cooling (DLC) and other thermal design innovations optimize CO2-Balance by reducing the need for energy and cooling.

In addition, the designs have been standardized across the entire PowerEdge portfolio. Standardizing essential components such as the chassis, rails and fenders means fewer prototypes and tooling that contain a small but significant amount of toxic metal material that will eventually become waste. By further developing the standardization approach, prototyping is less needed and the tools can be reused.

For the 15th generation, this means an increased energy efficiency of 20 to 60 percent compared to previous generations. In addition, 30 percent less black plastic is used, and bioplastics and recycled materials are used instead.

Action area 4: Use of innovative procurement and recycling programs

To implement a complete sustainability concept, companies and their decision makers need to know what happens to their equipment after use or when it is replaced at regular intervals. This inevitably means phasing out and further or reusing valuable resources.

Asset Resale and Recycling (ARR) services enable Dell to keep products in the commercial cycle longer, while allowing materials to be recycled and reused. ARR solutions offer end-to-end logistics in a circular economy, extend the life of the technology and offer a take-back strategy to achieve the sustainability goals also for users and companies.

New, flexible on-demand models for investments also contribute to this, which, unlike cloud solutions, allow companies to precisely calculate costs, but also the ecological footprint. Private cloud data centers and infrastructures benefit from this in the long run.

Action area 5: Rely on producers for whom the human factor and “social influence” play a role

Sustainability has many aspects that equipment buyers should also consider. Without the “soft” human factor, the manufacturer will not generate any creative, sustainable further solutions for its products. To a large extent, it would remain a “green wash” – a mock sustainability label that IT decision makers should not be fooled by.

Dell has been committed to issues such as recyclable packaging and resource-efficient inventory management for more than two decades. And he remains one of the pioneers of sustainable development. Moreover, ambitious goals have already been proposed for 2030.

In 2019, Dell was recognized among other companies in the Ethisphere World’s Most Ethical Companies Award, which covered 50 industries in 21 countries. The basis for this was a program that dealt with the topic of sustainable development with specific goals for 2030 for itself and its employees. PowerEdge servers are also EPEAT and ENERGY STAR certified to reduce environmental impact and save costs.

Among other things, there are postulates around Power Edge servers:

  • The circular economy should be further promoted.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions (categories 1 and 2) are to be reduced by 50 percent. by 2030.
  • By 2030, 75% of electricity for all Dell plants is expected to come from renewable sources, to reach 100% by 2040.
  • The energy consumption of the entire product portfolio is to be reduced by 80 percent. compared to 2011 to 2020.
  • Work with suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent per unit of sales by 2030.
  • Improving the sustainability and health of global work environments should be promoted.

Summary: Technology that helps make the world a better place

Dell’s sustainability program covers core corporate goals such as ethnic inclusion, gender equality, and CO reduction2– Emissions from the production, transport, packaging, or use of company cars. It is a comprehensive look at the “social impact” of the company on the road to the future in which technology makes the world a little better through sustainable economic development.

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