At the beginning of September this year, when the temperature spiked to 46 degrees Celsius and broke the 100-year record for temperature in Sacramento, California, the US government had to ask people to stay indoors as much as possible and keep them safe. cool self. That’s also when people started picking up their phones and taking to Twitter to express their grievances. But as it turns out, their social media access will likely vanish along with everything else as the temperature rises.
Because the temperature was so high, Twitter’s entire data center area was shut down. While Twitter users joked that it was just a matter of hot weather and that a forced shutdown of the social media site would be a good thing for everyone, in the eyes of experts, the event this is very serious.
As an internal memo from the company’s vice president of engineering, Carrie Fernandez, stated that if other data centers in Atlanta or Portland experience problems, “we may not be able to provide traffic to all Twitter users.”
The company declined to discuss the specifics of that crisis. And while the company’s data centers in other regions are still online, users can continue to share their frustrations as usual, but the case shows how climate change could threaten threaten the very services we rely on to keep our businesses running and stay connected with friends and family. This isn’t even the first heat-related data center closure this year. A record heatwave in July in London knocked out facilities run by Google and Oracle. Power outages are also likely to become more common as climate change leads to an increasingly warmer world, with more extreme weather conditions.
And if you don’t realize, climate change is hitting us at a faster rate than ever before. 2022 is expected to be the sixth hottest year on record as average temperatures are 1.57 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average. We’re on track to normalize that annual temperature rise. , as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted last year. And it could get worse if nothing is done to change.
As our world heats up, power outages and water shortages have wreaked havoc in many parts of the planet. Data centers can be one of the first to feel the pinch in this regard. Because they need a lot of energy to keep servers running, air conditioning systems and often water to cool servers, sensors to monitor equipment, fire suppression and backup systems to steam. suffer from power glitches or software glitches. Essentially complex but resilient data ecosystems.
According to the latest report from the International Energy Agency, the whole process consumes a lot of energy, leading to data centers and data transmission networks being responsible for about 1% of energy demand in the world. all over the world. Over the past decade, that number has held steady. But as climate change threatens the availability of energy, tech companies have been implementing more sustainable strategies. These include shifting more reliance on traditional energy sources to renewables like solar and wind, purchasing carbon credits to offset emissions, recycling more water and tinkering with options. other cooling. The tech industry has also worked with governments in Sweden and Finland to place some new data centers in cooler climates, where ambient air could help. .
But you can’t just store all the data in construction centers near the Arctic Circle, as they need to be geographically close to users and business customers to reduce the time it takes to send and receive data, something related to what’s called latency. That’s why financial firms continue to lease data center space in Manhattan, near the New York Stock Exchange, to minimize latency between transactions. That’s also why Netflix has Amazon Web Services cloud data centers operating in all major cities, because people don’t like to wait long to see the next episode of their favorite series. prefer.
And when we need data centers that are close to residential areas, that means their climate impacts are also local.
“If we don’t tackle climate change, we’re really going to be destroyed.” Former Google CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt told CNBC in April. He left the tech giant in 2017 to start his own philanthropic company to support research in forward-looking fields in which climate change is hard to ignore. “We’re really putting our grandchildren and great-grandchildren in jeopardy.”
Experts say data centers could be built to be more climate-friendly. But it will be very difficult to do.
Built for change
Climate change has greatly affected the way tech companies operate. When choosing a location for their data centers, companies like Microsoft and Amazon prioritize access to low-cost energy, something they’ve found in places like Silicon Valley, some regions in northern Virginia and Dallas. They also look to internet infrastructure from telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink, along with fiber-optic providers like Charter and Comcast, to keep the data flowing. They must also assess the risk of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
Whether preparing for a disaster or an outage, companies running services through their data centers build network-level redundancy.
Chris Wellise, global director of sustainability and carbon for Amazon Web Services (AWS), said: “The way we design and operate our data centers with availability and security has really prepared us for increased climate risk.”
For data centers, building backup systems and generators ensures that anything can happen when something goes wrong without shutting down the entire center. When using a network of data centers, such as with AWS or Microsoft Azure, redundancy ensures customer data is synchronized so that their website or service is not disrupted if the data center whether there is a problem. Both Amazon and Microsoft have a so-called availability zone, which is a system such that if one region goes down, services are supported by other connected regions, which are far enough away to remain unaffected. by the same natural disaster.
So far, this approach has kept AWS servers and services up and running. While software issues sometimes cause data center outages, such as the three events in December 2021, AWS has not experienced a severe weather-related outage since after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
After the huge leap in conversion efficiency from small-scale to large-scale data centers, Big Tech is also looking more abstractly at reducing its carbon footprint.
That has led companies to consider the concept of “embodied carbon,” or the amount of carbon released in the production of building materials used to build the databases. For example, they switched to a different type of steel made with renewable energy, and concrete emits less carbon when mixed.
Water is not just for agriculture
One of the most dramatic ways climate change will make an impact is through water. This is not only a vital component of life on Earth, but also a vital asset to our data centers.
While data centers may look like any industrial building, they require much more water to cool support systems. While most of the water in these processes will be recycled, it will still have a big impact on this increasingly valuable resource. Water-cooled solutions are also said to be more efficient than air-cooled solutions, while consuming less power.
And that water consumption has raised concerns about a significant impact on local demand. Because water is forecasted to be more scarce by the time. Data centers can prepare for floods or storms, but drought will be a lot harder to deal with.
Companies are looking for ways to minimize the impact of water use. For example, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, and software giant Microsoft say they plan to add more water to the environment than they use. In 2018, the number was 1 million cubic meters of water, by 2021, this number has reached 2.3 million cubic meters of water.
Tech giants have also tried a number of waterless cooling alternatives. Microsoft is experimenting with completely submerging servers in a special liquid, then circulating the liquid out to cool down. This allows servers to run at faster processing speeds without the risk of overheating. Microsoft is also trying to store servers in underwater data centers, in devices that are vacuumed to keep the internal temperature stable.
The heat generated by the data centers can also be reused. Facebook tested converting heat from a data center in Denmark to heat thousands of nearby homes. Companies have also figured out how to use water after using it to cool their computer systems and data centers. For example, Amazon has diverted water from data centers around Umatilla, Oregon, into a canal that local communities can use to irrigate agriculture. Of course, that amount of water is not safe to drink.
Refer Cnet, CNBC