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What The Lion King Taught Us About Data Center Sustainability

What <i>The Lion King</i> Taught Us About Data Center Sustainability

And How Elton John Put It to Music

We’ll keep it plain and simple: Since natural law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, we have to change the way we think about and direct that energy both within our organizations and data centers and outside of them with trusted partnerships and collaboration. It’s the Circle of Life.

That means thinking about how natural groups adapt together to survive and thrive, understanding and remembering how all things are eventually returned to the Earth (as in, let’s never forget what happens after the lifespan as our IT is gone), and learning to work with and amplify existing synergies. At the end of the day, maybe Elton’s hit song was right when it sings about how there is more to do than can ever be done. Still, we like to think that some Mufasa-esque wisdom on the data center’s delicate, all-encompassing balance is actually pretty shrewd advice for operators looking to make true progress.

The idea of ‘strength in numbers’ is at best a common adage that people pull out of their back pocket when they want to inspire teamwork — at worst, it’s a tired cliche that often results in an eye roll. In the case of data center sustainability, numbers are certainly not a point of strength at face value. Between the government’s goals of being carbon emission-free in 27 years and that dreaded 1% that keeps being thrown around regarding data centers’ global energy consumption, it appears that numbers might be our worst enemy.

Still, at Stream Data Centers, we believe in those tried-and-true virtues of teamwork and collaboration for a reason. These beliefs are baked into everything we do, and it’s why building the industry’s best team is at the top of our priority list. So, when we think of eliminating carbon footprints and amping up our green results, we really do believe that there’s strength in numbers, but only if you build your environment intelligently     .

Ultimately, here’s what we’re continuing to learn: Delivering innovative, green data center capabilities means having a balanced, synergistic, and harmonious ecosystem — with the knowledge and care of all those interconnected pieces and individuals layered on top. Actually, someone already explained this perspective best:

“Everything the light touches is our kingdom… everything you see exists together in a delicate balance…”
– Mufasa, The Lion King.

Yes, really. An animated lion — but hey, it works. Actually, now that we think about it, there’s a lot of parallels between data center operations and that movie. In fact, we think maybe ‘Circle of Life’ was about more than just living on the Serengeti… but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start at the beginning.

Is Sustainability Better Together?

Recently, we were featured in Bisnow for our approach to sustainability, and at the core of that approach is design. However, sometimes at the core of design is a meeting of great minds — in our case, that means partnering with organizations like Schneider Electric. This is a decade-long collaboration with a global energy specialist that is (literally) illuminating a path to data center carbon neutrality. With this collaboration, we can leverage a combination of energy-efficient products and guidance that keep us ahead of the curve and help us make informed decisions about our green present and future.

Of course, this insight is paired with a data center strategy that always puts sustainable design, operation and measurement at the forefront. In our last blog, we did a deep dive on how we take a holistic approach to this — focusing on the embedded carbon at each phase of the data center lifecycle and finding ways to reduce it at every step. In the recent Bisnow article, Mark Hurley, Schneider Electric’s Data Center Solutions Architect, offered thoughts that take that system-wide perspective to a whole new level. He notes, “When designing and building data centers with sustainability in mind, those goals should be spread throughout the organization, and all departments need to be in sync. If someone is being driven by lowest-cost solutions, they may not be thinking about the long-term implications on operating efficiency as well as energy consumption at all times.”

Besides, the data center and all its assorted, interdependent elements work like a body with many intricate systems and fluctuating conditions. We often build and design with the idea of full capacity in mind — but that’s designing in a vacuum. Instead, efficient design should maintain that efficiency even as IT utilization changes.

So, what does this teach us? Ultimately, reducing data centers’ impact on global ecosystems might just mean treating the data center itself like its own organism within that landscape — we must learn how to evolve in a way that helps us fit in without disrupting the delicate balance at hand. This also means we also have a page to take from much of the natural world itself: a reliance on community. Strength in numbers. That’s why we’re proud to not only partner with Schneider Electric, but other industry-leading companies like Jacobs Engineering too to help further our sustainability goals, complete life cycle assessments and reduce the impact of our sites when we build the future.

With this mindset (and the best-in-class partnerships it helps us put in place), we’re able to do what we do best and fulfill our own promise: Trusted, industry-leading partnership and collaboration with our customer.

Circle of Life

All of this might just be where philosophy (and Disney fantasy) meets cold, hard technology, and we know that to a techy crowd, it might all be cringe-worthy. Still, as contrived, counterintuitive or sentimental as it may seem, this ‘Circle of Life’ perspective may be just like our old ‘strength in numbers’ phrase — we dismiss its wisdom at our own peril.

Of course, if you want to cut to reality and the facts and learn how we adopt this perspective in our data centers, don’t miss our feature article with Schneider Electric for more details.

About Our Contributor

Stuart Lawrence

Vice President, Product Innovation & Sustainability
Stuart leads the support of client technical needs and assists the Stream design, engineering and construction team with overall site layout and design. Read More