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"Assessing the environmental impact of data centres part 1: Background, energy use and metrics"

by Whitehead, Beth; Andrews, Deborah; Shah, Amip; Maidment, Graeme (2014)


Data centres consume high levels of energy to power the IT equipment contained within them, and extract the heat they produce. Because of the industry's heavy reliance on power, data centre metrics have historically used operational efficiency as a proxy for sustainability. More recently the industry has begun to recognise that its focus needs to go beyond energy consumption, with the creation of metrics for issues such as carbon, water and compute efficiency. However, single-issue metrics often consider only the operational phase, omitting impacts from other issues, during other stages in a facility's lifetime. Further approaches exist to assess more holistically the impact of data centres, such as building environmental assessment methods, but none have the capacity to capture fully the interlinked nature of a system, where improvements in one area and to one impact, can adversely affect a totally different area and totally different impacts. The following review of literature summarises the approach of the data centre industry to environmental impact, and provides direction for future research. Part 1 describes the energy consumption of the ICT industry and in particular data centres; current knowledge on the environmental impact of the industry; and how single-issue metrics have risen to prominence.


Data Centres, Environmental Impact, Carbon Footprint, Life Cycle Assessment, Data Centre Metrics, Energy Consumption



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