Many datacentre operators will struggle to meet emerging sustainability reporting requirements and regulations because of how little data they collect on the energy and water usage habits of their sites, suggests data from the 13th annual Uptime Institute annual global datacentre survey.
With operators under growing pressure to shrink the environmental footprint of their datacentres, as the regulatory scrutiny of the industry’s activities continues to rise, the survey’s findings highlight just how much work the sector must do to improve the tracking of the resources it consumes and the emissions it generates.
“In several studies in recent years, Uptime has noted that the collection and reporting of sustainability-related data, and the calculation of related metrics, is patchy at best. Once again, the survey confirms this view,” said the accompanying 33-page report. “Many operators will struggle to meet the emerging sustainability reporting requirements, or the requirements of some customers and even the public.”
In terms of the metrics they do track, operators tend to focus their efforts on monitoring the energy and water usage habits of their facilities, rather than the amount of greenhouse gases they generate, for money-saving reasons, said the report.
“Power consumption, PUE [power usage effectiveness] and water are easy to track, and any improvement in these areas can often save money,” said the report. “Carbon reduction, which, of course, can be partly achieved by good energy management, is much more complicated and less directly rewarding.”
Of the survey participants, 88% said they monitor the power consumption habits of their datacentres and 71% use the PUE reporting metric, but less than half said they report how much water their facilities use or keep tabs on their server utilisation rates.
“The best run datacentres do now track and report all this data… If the datacentre can perform effectively with less power, water, cooling and fewer servers, there is likely to be both a carbon and cost reduction – although this is not assured,” the report continued.
“The reporting of metrics related to actual carbon emissions remains very low, which suggests some rapid remediation work is going to be needed in the years ahead.”
The report’s findings were generated by polling more than 850 datacentre owners and operators, as well as a further 700 suppliers and consultants, who were asked questions about the state of the industry from a resilience, sustainability, efficiency, staffing and regulatory perspective.
For the first time in the 13 years the survey has been conducted, participants were also quizzed about their key management concerns, with many citing staffing issues and the need to improve their sites’ energy efficiency as a top concern.
Where staffing is concerned, the report’s findings served to highlight that the datacentre industry continues to suffer from a lack of diversity, with its data revealing that women make up just 8% of the datacentre industry’s workforce.
“Nearly two-thirds of operators have problems recruiting or retaining staff – however, this figure is not currently growing,” said the report. “The largest skills gaps are in operations, mechanical and electrical roles.”
Andy Lawrence, executive director of Uptime Intelligence, said the organisation’s data reveals that operators are grappling with several emerging issues, with sustainability-related ones top of mind for many of the survey’s participants.
“In 2023, the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have receded, but other challenges have emerged. Digital infrastructure managers are now most concerned with improving energy performance and dealing with staffing shortfalls, while government regulations aimed at improving datacentre sustainability and visibility are beginning to require attention, investment and action.”