Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center now available

The book ‘Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center’ (ISBN 978-1499224689) is now available on Amazon.

Given the complexity of the ‘data center supply chain’, the number of stakeholders that are involved and the issues that are at stake, data centers are a fine example of a topic that looks like an IT architect topic but instead is an Enterprise architect topic.

Data centers are also an example of a “new” quality attribute that deserve much more attention of enterprise architects: sustainability.

A sustainable data center should be environmentally viable, economically equitable, and socially bearable. Creating sustainable data centers is not a technical problem but an economic problem to be solved.

Data Center 2.0: The Sustainable Data Center is an in-depth look into the steps needed to transform modern-day data centers into sustainable entities.

The book takes a conceptual approach on the subject of data centers and sustainability. It offers at least multiple views and aspects on sustainable data centers to allow readers to gain a better understanding and provoke thoughts on how to create sustainable data centers.

The book has endorsements of Paul-Francois Cattier Global Senior, Vice-President Data Center – Schneider Electric, Mark Thiele, President and Founder – Data Center Pulse, and John Post, Managing Director – Foundation  Green IT Amsterdam region.

To get an impression see the following slide deck.

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The Connection between Enterprise Architecture and Data Centers

What is the connection between enterprise architecture and something technical as data centers?

In one of his blogs Tom Graves, a well known enterprise architect, is discussing the needs of enterprise architect clients.

According to Tom: “What paying-folks in business and elsewhere want from enterprise-architecture and suchlike is very rarely about theory or anything of that kind – on frameworks, reference-models, schemas and so on. Nope. What they want from us is practical answers to practical business-questions – almost nothing more than that” (emphasis by Tom Graves).

I would add to this that enterprise architecture is all about decision support and gaining insight in certain organisational issues. Depending on the issues (and the main objective one wants to achieve) we can define different work domains with different goals and timelines as shown in the figure below.

EAWorkdomains

The enterprise architect is the one who should help an organization to operate as one, by working towards a common shared vision supported by a well orchestrated set of actions, is to have the capability to create, implement and maintain a coherent enterprise design also known as an enterprise architecture.

The promise of enterprise architecture is that designing an enterprise by applying systematic rational methods will produce an enterprise that is capable to pursues its purposes more effectively and efficiently.

Enabling organisations to make better-informed decisions.

One of the main activities (and one of the main differentiators with other architects) of the enterprise architect should be to help to create insight in the relation between developments in technology and society, and the organization and the impact it has on the strategic, tactical and operational work level of the organization.

Inform, communicate and facilitate are the verbs of the enterprise architect.

Walk the talk

Based on these ideas I wrote a book about data centers. Why?

The last few years the focus of data centers was mainly on IT efficiency. But currently there is much is more at stake than ordinary operational technicalities. Something that not everyone is aware of.

In large parts of the world, computers, Internet services, mobile communication, and cloud computing have become a part of our daily lives, professional and private. Information and communication technology has invaded our life and is recognized as a crucial enabler of economic and social activities across all sectors of our society. The opportunity of anytime, anywhere being connected to communicate and interact and to exchange data is changing the world.

So, during the last two decades, a digital information infrastructure has been created whose functioning is critical to our society, governmental, and business processes and services, which depend on computers. Data centers, buildings to house computer servers along with network and storage systems, are a crucial part of this critical digital infrastructure. They are the physical manifestation of the digital economy and the virtual and digital information infrastructure, were data is processed, stored, and transmitted.

Given the fact that we are living in a world with limited resources and the demand for digital infrastructure is growing exponentially, there will be limits that will be encountered. The limiting factor to future economic development is the availability and the functioning of natural capital. Therefore, we need a new and better industrial model.

Creating sustainable data centers is not a technical problem but an economic problem to be solved.

Therefore organisations have to rethink the “data center equation” of “people, planet, profit”.

With a Cradle-to-Cradle approach we can transform current production systems with linear material flows (make take waste) to production systems with circular materials flows (reuse, recycle and recover). In order to prevent resource depletion, disposal of valuable materials and harmless emissions.

A sustainable data center should be environmentally viable, economically equitable and socially bearable. The combination of service-dominant logic and cradle-to-cradle makes it possible to create a sustainability data center industry.

Data Center 2.0: The Sustainable Data Center is an in-depth look into the steps needed to transform modern-day data centers into sustainable entities (ISBN 978-1499224689).

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The as-a-Service model and Enterprise Architecture

Cloud Computing is an example for the X-as-a-Service delivery model. It is said that cloud computing is improving business agility because of the ability to rapidly and inexpensively provision technological infrastructure resources on a pay-per-use basis. So customers are urged not to buy and own hardware and software for themselves but instead they should make use of cloud computing services that are offered by the cloud computing providers.

In essence, this delivery model defies the need of physical ownership of hardware and software. What is the point of owning hardware and software? The only thing you want to do with it is using it at the time you need it. So it looks like that physical ownership is based on the need to have control on the availability of the functions offered by the software and hardware. The cloud computing proposition of on-demand delivery on a pay-per-use basis more or less removes the necessity to possess hardware and software.

Service approach

The first thing that comes to mind is the question: “is this XaaS wisdom, X-as-a-Service as preached by the cloud computing providers also used by them selves?”.

A datacenter is an assembly of software, computer servers, storage, networks and power and cooling/air handling components. With these means the cloud computing provider assembles its cloud computing services. But is there a need for these providers to own these components?

Can a datacenter and thus a cloud computing proposition be assembled by a set of software, computer servers, storage, networks and power and cooling/air handling services provided by third parties?

Go circular

The emphasis on services rather than goods is a central idea of the new industrial model, circular economy, that is now gradually taking shape.

Circular economy draws a sharp distinction between the consumption and the use of CircularEconomy materials. It is based on a ‘functional service’ model in which manufacturers retain the ownership of their products and, where possible, act as service providers—selling the use of products, not their one-way consumption as in the current industrial model of linear economy. In this new industrial model the goal of manufacturers is shifting; selling results rather than equipment, performance and satisfaction rather than products.

Examples

Cloud computing (information technology) is not the only example of X-as-a-Service.

An example of this new approach is Philips, the global leader in LED lighting systems who has recently closed a deal with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to provide 25 car parks with a LED lighting service. Philips will monitor and maintain the lighting solution based on a lighting-as-a-service model (Pay-per-Lux model).

As expressed by Philips the implications from a business process perspective are profound. Out the window goes the traditional, linear approach to resource use: namely, extract it, use it and then dump it. Instead, management focus turns to principles such as re-manufacturing, refurbishment and reuse.

Another example is InterfaceFLOR. As part of their drive to increase the inherent level of sustainability of their business, they do not sell the carpet as a product, they lease it as a service. That is supply, install, maintain and replace the carpet.

Changing Supply Chains

In this circular economy model, all materials used in a production process falls into one of two categories: technical or biological nutrients.

Technical nutrients are strictly limited to non-toxic, non-harmful synthetic materials that have no negative effects on the natural environment. They can be used in closed continuous cycles without losing their integrity or quality. In this manner these materials can be used over and over again instead of being  waste as in the traditional linear economy process of Take-Make-Waste.

Biological Nutrients are organic materials that, once used, can be disposed of in any natural environment and decompose into the soil, without affecting the natural environment.

The two types of materials each follow their own recycling process.

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Enterprise Architecture

It is clear that we are moving away from the linear model. The European Commission published a document entitled Manifesto for a Resource Efficient Europe which explicitly stated that “In a world with growing pressures on resources and the environment, the EU has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy.”

As expressed by Philips the implications from a business process perspective are profound. Why bothering on the life cycle management of all the components you need? Why the burden of managing the buying, installing, maintaining, replacing, decommissioning processes of these components?

This shift will change the current supply chains and will enforce the idea of an Service Oriented Business model. This also brings the question to the Enterprise Architect how the business proposition of his organisation can be assembled by a set of services provided by third parties, how to manage and control a business service oriented organisation, and also how his organisation can provide services instead of products to their customers. The classical question ”What makes a firm?” is back on the table again. Also the circular economy approach shed some new light on the topic of sourcing and new sourcing models will be needed.

We have to rethink the supply chain and business model of our organisation again.

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If you want to know more on circular economy download a free copy of the book SenSe & SuStainability from the Ellen Macarthur foundation or read the book of Braungart and McDonough ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things.