Veli-Antti Leinonen is a Specialist at the Kajaani Data Center Program, CSC IT Center for Science in Finland

In order to secure the digital preservation in long term, the preservation MUST be ecologically on a solid foundation. Otherwise, the data can’t be preserved in the future if it consumes too much of earth’s resources. Non-sustainable preservation will eventually lead into data loss or intentional deletion of data. This is comparable to subject that organizations need to be on a sound foundation to assure the reliability, but from the environmental point of view. In addition to our data center operations, CSC provides national digital preservation services for both cultural heritage sector and research data in Finland, and acts as a national competence center for digital preservation. Having energy efficient data centers provides ecologically sustainable solutions especially when considering bit-level digital preservation.  

Intention of this blog text is to address the importance of digital preservation and CO2 free data center operations symbiosis. In order to reach the goals of EU’s Green Deal the current methods needs to be updated.

According to the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact: “European data center operators and trade associations are committed to the European Green Deal, achieving the ambitious greenhouse gas reductions of the climate law, and leveraging technology and digitalization to achieve the goal of making Europe climate neutral by 2050. To ensure data centres are an integral part of the sustainable future of Europe, data centre operators and trade associations agree to make data centres climate neutral by 2030.”

In 2018 the energy consumption of data centers in the EU was 76.8 TWh. This is expected to rise to 98,52 TWh by 2030, a 28% increase. Now that we know the consumption of data centers let’s look into the average European electricity CO2 emissions. In 2018 it was 290g / CO2-e/kWh, so the average estimation of annual CO2 emissions by European data centers would be 22 272 000 tons. Environmentally-wise the impact of using renewable CO2 free energy is massive but the effect could be even double if data centers could utilize excess heat.

When it comes to digital preservation the most important thing is to assure the data integrity. To control the risk of losing data multiple copies based on different technologies is needed. The more copies you make the more energy you consume; you can try to optimize the energy consumption by using tape technologies. Three copies are thought as minimal setup for digital preservation. One way or another the digital preservation process needs electricity, and to minimize the used energy in the process, data center energy efficiency is an important factor. The PUE value (Power Usage Effectiveness) used to be the most Essential value when comparing data centers’ energy efficiency. But now that waste heat utilization is becoming more popular a value called ERE (Energy Reuse Effectiveness) should be more recognized in the comparison of different service providers. Every kWh consumed in IT and for example in digital preservation turns into heat and it shouldn’t be let loose on the sky where no one benefits. Created heat should be, where feasible, harnessed and distributed e.g., to district heating network. This way the used electricity and the created excess heat can lower the CO2 emissions the most efficient way. And at the same time secure the longevity of the data center service location for example to digital preservation use case.

This year’s theme for the blog text was “Breaking Down Barriers”, and we think our EuroHPC project LUMI is an excellent example of such. As the objective for EU climate neutrality is set to 2050, LUMI site reaches climate neutrality from day-1. Not only we are able to use 100% renewable energy but also utilize excess heat to local district heating network. Estimated annual carbon sink will be 13 500 tons, equivalent to the yearly emissions of 4000 cars.

If calculating the LUMI CO2 emission from the 2018 EU emission average (290g/CO2-e/kWh), the annual emission would be ~25 000 tons of CO2. While saving environment we are also saving on ~40% of our energy costs, thanks to selling our heat. Safe to say that LUMI is showing one relevant option how to reach carbon negative data center operations and exceed the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact requirements. For digital preservation LUMI is an excellent choice as well.

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