Between the expo demos, behind-the-scenes meetings and drinks, thought leaders from across the data center, cloud and edge ecosystem took the stage to discuss some of the biggest talking points impacting the industry.
These ranged from enterprise cloud vs on premise, diversity and inclusion, talent and M&A and finance. One of the biggest recurring themes was ESG, especially sustainability. One of the first panels at the event was Elodie Michaels, Business Unit Director at CBRE; Mats Andersson, CMO at Lefdal Mine Datacenter; Garry Connolly, founder of Host in Ireland; Christophe Hein, sales and marketing at TotalEnergies; Danielle Rossi, Global Director of Mission Critical Refrigeration at Trane; and moderator Shawn Novak, CSO at nZero, explore a circular economy approach to data center operations.
Drawing on her own personal experiences, Michaels, who is American but grew up in France, says that before sustainability approaches like circular economy can be implemented, “we need to change the culture,” adding, “We’re not going to get anywhere. If you don’t get them there that there is something good about it and that for the companies, that there are cost savings”.
Her goal, as she put it, is to partner with engineering firms that provide CBRE with new innovations and solutions, not simply “redoing the same data center because it’s easy and because it works.”
Rossi says there are two sides to this kind of circular economy approach and getting companies to believe in it, or “the carrot and the stick” as she puts it.
“You have the carrot that says if you do this you get access to these incentives. And then you have the stick that says if you don’t do this you will be fined.”
She also believes that technology will naturally drive this approach, as high-performance computers that create higher water temperatures will make reuse more common.
Connolly referred back to the Five-nines availability metric that was more commonly used in previous years, but has now become more of a general requirement or expectation, similar to renewable energy use, Connolly that circular economy will become part of the requirements.
But once it becomes more embedded in the ecosystem, Connolly says data centers and even the wider digital infrastructure community will have to do what they’ve traditionally been bad at, and that is engage the wider society.
“Look where it landed us,” he said. “Nuclear bombs, great white sharks and data centers are all said in the same sentence and create fear in communities.”
Part of this also requires a change in the lagunaeg we use, to make it more accessible and better understood for the groups we’re trying to interact with, he jokingly joked that PUE should mean “please use English!”
At TotalEnergies, Hein says they leverage partnerships with models that see each company contribute to circular economy, knowledge sharing and data publishing “to give them what everyone in every chain knows better.”
Collaboration is key, says Mats, and while no one will give away precious IP, he says that “we share our knowledge and lessons. We have projects from all over the world coming to us to learn what we do, not just on sustainability, but in all our projects.”
This sentiment was echoed by the panel moderator, Novak, who added, “We all talk and share ideas. It’s important that we actually implement those ideas that we share. That’s what will complete this whole circle.”