Reducing the Carbon Footprint on the Information Superhighway

Ramesh Kalanje leads the Global Centre of Excellence (GCOE) organization at Commvault and has played a pivotal role in establishing it, building on the pillars of Diversity & Inclusion, Sustainability and Innovation. With over 27 years of experience in the IT industry, he has held leadership roles at Deem, EMC, MuSigma, and Cisco, establishing him as an influential industry thought leader. He often contributes insights and writings for (TSIA) Technology Services Industry Association on topics related to establishing operational and R&D excellence centres. Ramesh holds a Master of Science in Computer Science and Bachelor of Engineering in Instrumentation Technology.

Internet usage has skyrocketed over the years, with more and more people being online since the pandemic. The dependency on the internet is such that people go most days without realizing the sheer amount of data that is exchanged on this gargantuan space i.e., the information superhighway. To put it into numbers, more than 24,000 gigabytes of data is being uploaded to the web each second. So, imagine how taxing storing all that data must be. Storing and retaining these bits and bytes that make up our entire world demands an immense amount of resources from our environment. Moreover, if left unchecked, they can cause irrevocable damage to our planet’s life-giving fabric.

Data centers house our precious data and they use an estimated 200 terawatt hours (TWh) each year. That is more than the cumulative energy consumption of entire countries! Data centers are also heavy contributors to 0.3% of the world’s carbon emissions, which begs the question whether every packet of data stored is really needed?

Dark data can be anything that is used once and then forgotten, like the duplicate images you have saved in your drive, outdated spreadsheets from years ago, geolocation data, and old financial statements, among others. This unwanted information is tethered to reality by the energy used to store it. Therefore, unless people change their habits, there will be 91ZB of dark data in five years – over four times the volume we have today, leading to unsustainable data processing practices. Businesses must eliminate this dark data pollution and adopt a greener approach to data management to save energy and ultimately our planet.

Deleting Data Waste for a Greener Future

Businesses around the globe have been steering towards digitalization with determination. This is also the main cause for organizational data swamps, large pockets of information that provide zero to no business insights and value.

And while companies are making the shift to the cloud to mitigate the environmental impact, it is still going to be a long time before any organisation becomes a 100% cloud company. Therefore, data centers cannot just yet be completely disregarded. One of the first steps businesses can take in their approach towards creating a green technological landscape is to reduce the amount of Redundant, Obsolete, or Trivial (ROT) data that they store.

This calls for a robust data management solution that can help IT teams, in particular, to determine the importance of the data stored. This will help in discarding unimportant files, thus preventing ROT from building up over time.

With the help of a good data management solution, organizations can also determine the life cycle of collected data. AI algorithms can analyze data types to ascertain usability and can put it to work to benefit the company while removing the rest. It can also create bespoke data retention policies aligning with evolving organizational requirements.

Unused data is an organizational hazard. Therefore, all departments of a company must come together to ensure ROT data is not rotting away, costing the company both money and precious energy. They must also define what needs to be saved in the first place.

Becoming the Data Sentinels to Energy Conservation

Our planet is suffering and not endemic to a specific industry, region, or economy. The importance of technology is not diminishing; therefore, the amount of data is also not going to see any reduction. The issue is looming large, but the solution is also in sight. Businesses must manage their dark and ROT data if they hope to get ahead of the spiralling carbon emissions.

Green IT is becoming a critical sustainable goal for companies as they embark on digital transformation journeys. Business leaders must amp up their awareness initiatives on the meaning of unwanted and unclassified data and how its accumulation can hamper our biological ecosystem. Responsible data management is essential for securing its most valuable asset - its data - and increasing its efficiency without jeopardizing environmental integrity.