The ‘True’ Sustainable Cloud Sci-fi Dream or Almost-in-reach Reality?


In Isaac Asimov’s 1958 novel Caves of Steel data can be stored on a device called a merc-pool. The data is stored in vibration patterns of the mercury surface within.

Bruce Sterling in Islands in the Net asked us to consider the ethical quandaries associated with data storage, with Data Havens – essentially an offshore web host, where data that cannot legally be kept can be stashed for later use.

We live in an era where science-fiction is becoming (or in some circumstances, is) science fact. Just last year Lonestar Data Holdings announced it wanted to be the first company to place a series of data centres on the moon. 

It’s a technically sound proposition with a lot of security and data protection benefits. Plus, it’s backed by some big names after a series of successful, ground-breaking edge data centre tests aboard the International Space Station.

However, with all the energy required to blast materials into space it can never be considered sustainable – even if the rockets used to get them through the atmosphere become truly reusable.

Data is the most important currency of the 21 st century. Anecdotally in the US, data is valued at around $35-a-head, and it cannot be disputed that data stored in the cloud continues to grow exponentially.

Considering the increasing cost of energy, greenhouse gas emissions targets and detailed sustainability reporting – the traditional data centre will continue to evolve. The cloud can be sustainable if the data centre and the cloud providers operate in sustainable, environmentally conscious ways. The solutions need to be just a little closer to home than the moon! Smaller companies have taken on this environmental challenge and have expanded to offer services to third party companies to help them achieve their sustainability goals.

PeaSoup’s ECO Cloud impacts the environment at least 30% less than traditional cloud providers. This is done by utilising hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) architecture and advanced liquid immersion technology with a biodegradable dielectric cooling fluid. The effect delivers cooling power one thousand times more efficient than air.

This setup allows CPU and GPU clusters to be closer together in high-density configurations. Moreover, this setup continues to protect vital components from thermal and environmental risks. Contaminants really struggle in water, likewise in a biodegradable dielectric fluid.

Art Malinowski, PeaSoup’s Head of Marketing explained: “The demand for cloud, particularly the storage element, makes running facilities extremely heavy on energy usage and carbon footprint. Many data centre operators try to power theirs using solar or wind power, hoping to rely less on fossil fuels.”

“Companies also employ the practice of carbon offsetting which is a hotly debated topic. An example of carbon offsetting is by planting trees to suck carbon out of the atmosphere as they grow. Unfortunately, the efficiency of such schemes is negligible and the practice is debated by charities and companies alike.

“The alternative solution (to reduce emissions) is to embrace new technologies, such as liquid immersion cooling with all the benefits it provides. This could take on massive new momentum if one of the big data centre operators adopted the technology and marketed it thoroughly.”

Without a sci-fi alternative to call upon there has to be a trailblazer for alternative technology and Peasoup’s ECO Cloud serves many industries in the UK, including the health and education sectors. The solution also demonstrates a sizeable proof-of-concept, although this phase has long passed and the technology is both future proof and scalable.

The sustainability question will dominate the cloud data storage conversation moving forward. The alternatives to air cooling exist, and they work. Humanity has never been shy at tackling huge problems or adopting the latest technology – so it shouldn’t be when it comes to keeping cloud data storage servers cool.

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