UK cleans up in EU data centre awards

Britain tops the European league table for clean, green operations in its data centre

EU Data Centre Code of Conduct award winners 2013

EU Data Centre Environmental Code of Conduct award winners 2013


UK based companies won five of the eight available prizes for observing the EU’s voluntary Code of Conduct on energy efficiency in server farms. Award winner Alex Rabbatts told FI ” I don’t think anybody does green for green’s sake. Everything we did, we did for money.” His data centre Migration Solutions, based at Norwich in the eastern region of England, scooped one of the Endorser prizes given by the European Commission to companies which promote energy efficiency. There are 189 “endorsers” in the programme.  These are IT professionals who promote the use of the Data Centres Code of Conduct and help other companies to implement it. “The industry needs to put its own house in order” says Rabbatts. “We’ve installed intelligent LED lighting for example. There is no reason why data centres need to be lit – as many of them are – because servers aren’t afraid of the dark.” Migration Solutions hosts data for big clients including the National Health Service and the Morrisons supermarket chain, and Rabbatts reckons he gets a Return On Investment (ROI) on the switch to LED lighting within two years. Alex Rabbatts

EU research

All the winners of the Code of Conduct Awards are listed on the EU website

But with a 63 percent increase in Europe-wide data centre CO2 emissions in 2011-12, the environment czars clearly need to raise their game. So they are investing in Marco di Girolamo of Hewlett Packard’s EU-funded environmental research projects. The first, fit4green, showed a 20 percent energy saving project was possible in data centres by improving energy efficiency. The second, All4green, recommended further measures that could result in savings of  10-20 percent. The third phase involves collaboration across national boundaries between traditional and renewable energy providers and data centres, working with a smart grid to ensure optimal use of renewables and only switching to fossil-fuel energy at times of peak demand. di Girolamo told FI ” We want to re-shape the way the workload is run inside data centres to optimise the use of clean energy and use as little dirty energy as possible. Clean energy is wind, solar, hydroelectric – what is clearly recognised by the scientific community as green and clean.”

Watch the all4green animation here

This smart-grid solution comes not a moment too soon. For the latest trend in data centres is a move from cold places back to cities. Sites such as Iceland, Lithuania and Sweden where the climate allows ‘free cooling’ – using filtered, naturally cool air to chill the servers – offer cheap, energy-efficient solutions for cloud computing. But as companies start to switch really important (‘mission-critical’ or ‘business-critical’) transactions to the cloud, they begin to get twitchy about two vital concerns: security and latency.


Security might be at risk from hackers, terrorists or physical disruption such as an Icelandic volcano erupting or flooding caused by climate change. Latency is the microscopic delay in transmitting data from a remote part of the globe to the terminal on the trading floor or back-office. This is an even bigger worry. In those fractions of a second, a price could change or a competitor could get information first. A deal could be lost. For this reason many data centre companies are locating themselves in or close to their clients’ city-centre HQs.

Message to governments

One of these is Virtus, a company chaired by former UK Transport Minister Steven Norris. He is robust in defending the industry against claims that it is dirty and wasteful “Climate change ministers bracket data centres with industrial smelters, steel producers, ceramic makers and other problem large energy users..Actually data centres do have a really positive message. The more energy data centres use, the more energy we as society save. ” His CEO Neil Cresswell explains to FI that sending data to centres which are energy-efficient is better for the environment than saving it in thousands of small basement servers in the same way that train travel is ‘greener’ than driving individual cars. Neil Cresswell CEO Virtus