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January 11, 2023updated 16 Jan 2023 10:42am

How tech leaders can keep energy costs down and meet efficiency goals

Choosing hardware and software wisely can help companies meet ESG targets and manage their carbon footprint while reducing energy costs.

By Matthew Gooding

As businesses face up to challenging economic conditions, the role IT plays in helping meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets is increasingly under the microscope. Experts at Dell say that, by making wise decisions on buying hardware and software, tech leaders can help their organisations meet sustainability goals, reduce energy use and cut costs in the process.

Cutting energy costs associated with data centres can help businesses meet sustainability targets. (Photo by Alexandru Chiriac/Shutterstock)

The impact of the war in Ukraine, together with the end of the Covid-19 restrictions, has seen interest rates and energy prices around the world soar. In this environment, ensuring that IT estates run efficiently has never been more important.

Even before the current energy crisis, the role of ESG in IT had been growing in importance. Recent research from the Enterprise Strategy Group found that 93% of buyers surveyed said their IT supplier’s ESG programme played a significant or modest role in purchasing decisions.

“We’re seeing the issue of ESG ranking higher and higher in the priorities for IT buyers,” says Alyson Freeman, sustainability product manager for ISG products at Dell.

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How tech leaders can reduce energy costs

When it comes to energy usage, hardware can be costly, particularly for businesses storing large amounts of information in data centres. Powering IT equipment and facilities can account for anywhere from 25%-60% of data centre operating costs, so making efficiency savings can have a tangible effect on the bottom line for businesses, Freeman says.

“Newer generations of products offer more compute power per watt,” she explains. “Consolidating workloads can have a huge impact on operational costs.”

To that end, Dell has reduced the energy intensity of its PowerEdge portfolio of rack servers by 83% since 2013, while the current generation of Dell Storage is 40% more efficient than its predecessor. The latest iterations of PowerEdge are equipped with fourth-generation AMD EPYC processors, which provide 50% more core density than previous generations of the chip with up to 47% better performance per watt. This helps businesses control data-centre carbon footprints.

Freeman says further savings can be made by transitioning to high-density and energy-efficient flash storage, and using a hybrid cloud service such as Dell APEX to cater for additional storage on a consumption basis and avoid over-provisioning of equipment.

A focus on cooling systems can also make a significant difference, Freeman adds. “One of the most significant power draws on a system is the fans that cool the machine off,” she says. “By implementing variable speed fans and infrastructure for higher temperatures, we’ve avoided energy being wasted on overcooling systems.”

Here the increased power efficiency offered by AMD’s 96-core 4th generation EPYC chipset comes into play. Consolidating workloads onto a single modern server powered by AMD’s technology, rather than several older, less efficient machines, reduces the energy consumed and heat generated, meaning cooling also becomes easier.

Technologies such as liquid cooling are an increasingly viable alternative option, and can help businesses meet sustainability goals by offering a more effective and efficient way to cool servers, Freeman adds.

Tech industry must work together to tackle environmental challenges

As well as providing more efficient products and services, Freeman says tech companies have a responsibility to work together to tackle the big challenges facing society. “We’re focused on ‘green IT’, which is making the products as efficient as they can be, but also ‘IT for green’; how these products can be used to come up with solutions that help the environment,” she says.

One example has seen Dell work with Hark, a UK industrial internet of things (IoT) company, to build a cloud-based platform which allows Hark’s customers to manage the energy use of their premises remotely. Built using Dell Edge Gateways for IoT, the platform can be deployed to pinpoint inefficient buildings and systems, and can also adjust power and other device settings to reduce energy consumption.

The savings for Hark customers have been tangible. One supermarket chain which uses the system across 600 stores in the UK saved more than £1m in energy costs over 12 months. Freeman says this type of partnership is a key part of Dell’s work. “These kind of partnerships are embedded in our culture at Dell, and we’re really excited about the impact we are having,” she says. 

Read more: AI is no silver bullet for the data centre skills shortage

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