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The main perk of cloud storage services the convenient storage of sizable amounts of data from physical devices, such as external hard disks or USBs. Cisco’s Global Cloud Index 2018 estimates that by 2018, 76 percent of global data center traffic will come from cloud services and applications, equivalent to 6.5ZB of data. This exponential growth comes coupled with the requirement of finding the energy to power up the data centers responsible of storing so much data.
Pinpointing the exact amount of data centers’ energy consumption is a complex task and results may vary. Carnegie Mellon University found the energy cost for data transfer and storage is close to 7kWh/GB, while the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy reached a figure amounting to 3.1kWh/GB. Data Center knowledge reported that even considering energy efficiency gains will save 620 billion kWh between 2010 and 2020, data center energy consumption is set to reach 73 billion kWh/y by 2020 in the US alone.
Tech Giants’ Renewable Leap
Even though Bill Gates and Steve Jobs’ creations are the subjects of the IT world’s most bitter rivalry, they share a common purpose: reaching 100 percent of renewable energy consumption. Microsoft pledged to aim for this goal in 2012 for its global operations and Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist of Microsoft, has acknowledged the need for greener data centers. “As Microsoft has transitioned from a software company to a mobile-first, cloud-first company, our energy footprint has changed,” he said. “Data centers are critical to enabling and powering our cloud offerings, but they also consume a great deal of electricity. This is both our biggest challenge and opportunity – as a technology company we have great tools to use electricity more smartly.”
Apple reports all of its data centers are 100 percent renewable-energy powered since 2014. the tech giant also has a renewable portfolio that includes 25 operational renewable energy projects with an installed capacity of 626MW. If the company’s solar power projects come online at the scheduled time, Apple will have more than 900MW at its disposal. This will run in parallel to a pipeline of 15 additional projects which, once complete, will amount to 1.4GW of renewable energy generation spread across 11 countries.
Online Streaming Joins the Fray
Greenpeace’s January 2017 Clicking Clean report found the energy footprint of the IT sector “is already estimated to consume approximately 7 percent of global electricity.” It highlights Google and Apple’s leadership in renewable powered growth while stating video streaming is a sizable driver of data demand, monopolizing 63 percent of global internet traffic in 2015. This figure is estimated to increase to 80 percent by 2020. “Netflix alone already accounts for over one-third of internet traffic in North America and is in the midst of a worldwide expansion,” the report said. In 2017, data centers represented 21 percent of IT sector’s electricity consumption, second only to devices at 34 percent.
Mexico’s Data Cloud
In October 2017, El Financiero reported 95.9 million of the 112.8 million active mobile accounts in Mexico were of users using smartphones, amounting to a whopping 85 percent, while El Economista showed 70 percent of Mexico’s 111 million population were internet users by the end of 2016. Deloitte anticipates that Mexico’s IoT boom will translate into 200 million devices connected to the internet by 2020.
Based on these trends, the country’s demand for data centers is expected to rise parallel to Mexico’s increasing IoT penetration. José Luis Friebel, Datacenter Dynamics Director General for Spain and Latin America, said Mexico is the second largest market in Latin America in terms of data center surface and the region’s first investor for this kind of infrastructure. Ausencio López, Channels Manager of Vertiv, said Mexico’s data center market will grow 30 percent between 2018 and 2020, based on increased server requirements by companies such as HP and Cisco. As new generation data centers include energy backup equipment, refrigeration systems, sensors, interface and remote monitoring capacity, data centers are expected to consume 2-15kW per rack.
Mexico now has close to 9GW of renewable energy projects in the pipeline as a result of the first three editions of the long-term electricity auctions, as well as a strong appetite for renewable project developers to set a foothold on Mexico’s commercial and industrial sectors. All that remains is the final step in turning data centers into renewable-powered clouds.