UBC Undergraduate Research

Determining the sustainability of current electronic information storage techniques Chau, Randy


This project is designed to answer a question of sustainability in a field of technology where data is stored electronically. Alan Doyle, a records manager at the University of British Columbia (UBC), has sponsored three questions that will ultimately determine the answer of whether storing data electronically is sustainable fiscally and environmentally. Simultaneously, this project also serves to provide firsthand knowledge of green data center methods for future developments at UBC. The challenges this report has attempted to answer include: 1) What is the current state? (i.e. What are the problems/What are people doing?) i) Businesses are running out of room to expand their storage media because they are using too much electricity. ii) Organizations and Initiatives are developing to invent standards and influence manufacturers to create greener technologies. iii) The amount of carbon emissions put out by data centers are magnified depending on what type of power plant is used to harness this electric energy. 2) What methods are being used to reduce the impact data storage has on the environment? i) The invention of Power Usage Effectiveness Tool by Green Grid helps data center users calculate how much of their total power is used by IT equipment themselves—determines efficiency of data center. ii) Customization of data center hardware marks big improvements to data center efficiency. iii) Hardware and software upgrades such as Dynamic Voltage Frequency Switching, Solid State Hard Drives, Virtualization, and hybrid UPS systems further increase the efficiency output of data centers and greatly reduces the amount of electricity usage in the data center. 3) What should UBC do? (Recommendations) i) Currently UBC is trying to integrate scattered small data centers across campus into its newly built pharmaceutical data center so it can utilize sustainable facility specifications. ii) However, implementation of a structured, centralized system is needed to employ the use of virtualization and further reduce electricity consumption in idling servers. iii) Finally, a method of records management needs to be initiated to free up cluttered unnecessary information and allow the servers to last as long as possible before a capacity issue comes into play.

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