Datacentre cooling techniques could reduce energy bills
Written by Paul Almond, Director at Datacentre UK
Temperature control is paramount in the datacentre industry, however the problem is that maintaining a regularly constant, low temperature can be extremely costly.
Unlike most office environments, trying to keep a datacentre cool by using air conditioning would very quickly incur a large energy bill.
As datacentres use around two per cent of the Global Electricity Consumption, it’s easy to understand the need for a cheaper alternative. One solution to this is free cooling.
This low-cost, low-energy cooling method enables datacentres to keep the inside temperature at the optimum level (crucial), as well as saves companies some money off their high energy bills. But what exactly is free cooling, and can it be used in other working environments? Let’s take a look.
Keeping temperatures down
Free cooling makes the most of low external temperatures in order to help with water chilling. Once the water is cooled sufficiently, it can be used instead of expensive air conditioning systems to keep the internal temperatures of a building down.
An advantage of free cooling is that the chilled water can be stored for later use, or used straightaway, depending on the need.
This means that companies can take advantage of colder seasons, such as winter and spring, to chill water which can then be used during the hotter months to control and regulate the internal building temperature.
Reducing energy usage
As I mentioned earlier, it is a high priority of datacentres to reduce their energy usage wherever possible. Free cooling offers a more environmentally-friendly approach to controlling the temperature of a datacentre, not to mention a cheaper alternative to expensive air conditioning systems.
Free cooling solutions offer two options for datacentres: an integral free cooling coil and an independent free cooler.
The former is an ideal option for buildings with limited space and allows for high energy efficiency. Independent free coolers on the other hand are designed for maximum efficiency and could save a company up to 70 per cent in terms of energy usage.
Other sectors can benefit
So now we’ve seen how free cooling works in datacentres, let’s explore some of the other industries in which it may help to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs:
Pharmaceutical - In the pharmaceutical industry, maintaining a regulated temperature is vital. Chemicals and substances may require storage at specific temperatures, and free cooling is one way to ensure this.
With the change in seasons, free cooling can ensure that these products are kept at a regulated temperature within the company’s control, and one that adheres to the regulations set by the British Association of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers.
Food - Whether you work in a restaurant or a supermarket, there are strict guidelines set out as to how food should be correctly stored in order to be safe for human consumption.
Products in the dairy, fresh fruit and vegetables, and meat and fish categories in particular require cooler temperatures than most. Maintaining the internal temperature will prevent bacteria from growing and will ensure that the food products’ shelf life is as stated, and that any persons who eat the food do not become ill as a result.
Other cooling techniques
There are of course other cooling techniques which can be used to control temperature. These include:
Deep seawater; High-altitude coldness; Night-time coldness and Subterranean geothermal energy.
While these have similar advantages to free cooling, they are also not without their drawbacks. For example, if your company’s building is not located within range of a water source, it is unlikely you will be able to make use of deep seawater cooling. In locations where the outside temperature is still relatively mild at night time, it may also be difficult to use this cooling method to regulate your internal temperature.
Because of these limitations, those industries for which temperature regulation is important may find it useful to tap into the datacentre cooling expertise and implement a similar solution to help reduce high energy usage and make great savings on bills.
Biden’s Supply Chain Intentions Depend on Cybersecurity
In recent years, the United States’ supply chain network has faced an onslaught of cyberattacks. The attacks have left the global superpower a shaking nation with a whole portfolio of challenges, risks, and vulnerabilities exposed to the masses. From the attack to the that breached companies like Apple, Microsoft, Uber, and Tesla, to the most recent , it’s evident that, in an increasingly digital age, cybercriminals fear no traditional governmental powers, and supply chain networks need to hunker down on cybersecurity.
Looking back at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, western nations found themselves ill-equipped to deal with the novel Coronavirus; not due to lack of knowledge or medical inability but because supply chains were in a chokehold and supplies like personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers weren’t being manufactured fast enough.
The Executive Order (EO) of US supply chains to figure out exactly where the vulnerabilities and risks are, to help institutions and organisations manage any future disruption caused by COVID-like events.
The EO focuses on six primary sectors:
- Communications and information technology
- Defence industrial base (DIB)
- Energy and power
- Public health
The listed sectors, as you might expect, are increasingly dependent on digital products and services to maintain daily operations, which increases their vulnerability to potential attacks ─ so they need cybersecurity. In fact, cybersecurity should be front-and-centre as a critical facet of the EO if the federal government truly intends to create a more robust and resilient supply chain in the face of rising criminal adversity.
Digitisation Dangers The Nation
When it comes to a globally interconnected supply chain, the ambitions of Biden’s administration are potentially a little far-fetched and off-the-mark, in reality. I say that because an overwhelming number of industry-leading organisations ─ even in the tech realm ─ still do not feel confident in their ability to deal with the vulnerabilities in their supply chain. Most of which come not from internal operations but from externals ones in the form of third parties and suppliers that they collaborate with.
According to the dated but increasingly relevant Marsh Microsoft introduction, “cyber risk has moved beyond data breaches and privacy concerns to sophisticated schemes that can disrupt entire businesses, industries, supply chains, and nations, costing the economy billions of dollars and affecting companies in every sector. The hard truth organisations must face is that cyber risk can be mitigated, managed, and recovered from, but it cannot be eliminated.”
Taking a look at the survey results reveals a telling tale: that third-party providers and supply chain operations external to an organisation are most likely to be the victim of cyberattacks and potential infiltration.
The survey found a wide discrepancy in many organisations’ view of the cyber risk faced by supply chain partners, compared to the level of perceived risk they themselves pose:
This variance is consistent across industry sectors and geographic regions, and the largest organisations exhibited the largest dissonance: 61% of companies with revenues of US$5bn or more suggested that their supply chain partners pose a risk, whereas only 19% say they themselves pose a risk to the third-parties involved:
Low Confidence in 3rd-Party Risk Mitigation Capabilities
The above paints a pretty poor picture of the overall supply chain security ─ a disconnect between large organisations and their suppliers, which could be driven by companies’ low confidence in their ability to mitigate cyber risks posed by their commercial partners. The number of companies that considered themselves “highly confident” in that area is few and far between, with only 5-15% of respondents feeling prepared to deal with the cyber risks caused by certain types of third-party providers.
So due to the very obvious lack of knowledge, it’s clear that supply chain professionals and organisations, as well as the Biden administration, should call upon their cybersecurity industry peers ─ ─ to take the fight to black hat cybercriminals.
How Cybersecurity Professionals Can Help
According to Padraic O’Reilly, CPO and Co-Founder of CyberSaint, the success of Biden’s Executive Order is heavily dependent on its stakeholders taking note of lessons from cybersecurity’s supply chain risk management initiatives, including:
- Identifying the main weaknesses along the chain of production before determining which ones can be fixed cost-effectively. Then, compare that with the cost of the potential impact ─ discover where the holes are and what’s worth prioritising.
- Thinking about the supply chain as a cybersecurity practitioner does. Cyber-risk is all about making sense of multiple data sources, and supply chain risk is the same. Don’t think about the supply chain as a single entity; rather, consider it as many entities that produce data ripe for deep risk analysis.
- Standardisation across the globally interconnected supply chain is hard, and communication is key. Cyber experts are hot on the topic, as managing risk is exactly what they do. Vulnerabilities and risk is the language that they speak in. They’ve been dealing with supply chain security for years before disruptions at the scale of COVID-19 came about.
Cross-sector collaboration with a strong focus on communication across hierarchical levels is at the very core of the cybersecurity function. If Biden hopes to see his supply chain initiative reign triumphant, his administration must ensure that efforts are coordinated across agencies, public entities, and the private sector industry. The administration must also carefully consider the potential impact of increased regulation that should be put in place following the year-long project ─ it could make or break the initiative across various sectors.
According to O’Reilly:
“The best choice is to rely on standards, measurement, and cross-industry collaboration to make this happen. Other supply chain standards, such as the (CMMC), can serve as models for a data-driven approach.
Without these considerations, we risk a lot of duplicative time, effort, and analysis, only to fail to mitigate cyber-risks and possibly result in yet another supply chain attack. We hope stakeholders will engage the information security community to bolster this project. Leveraging existing analysis by the information security community will matter to its success.”
Adapting To The Unknown
The fact of the matter is, when it comes to the US supply chain, we mostly haven’t got a clue. It’s a massively interconnected network that represents an ecosystem ─ one with risks coming from all angles and multiple points of failure. It’d be almost impossible to figure out all of the potential risks, as Biden’s initiative intends, so, according to O’Reilly, it’d be beneficial to focus not on sniffing out every single supply chain vulnerability but on advanced persistent threat (APT) incentives:
- What are the low-hanging targets?
- What do criminals want?
- What are they capable of?
“Doing some scenario modelling and talking in probabilities could lead to more informed decisions regarding mitigating risk. NIST 800-30 and the are examples of risk-quantification methods that aim to translate cybersecurity risk into dollars and cents. Understanding supply chain risk requires measurement, strong governance, input from security experts, information sharing, and advances in cyber and IT risk-management software. Instead of logging an APT's activity, start getting a fact pattern about where they may be going”, O’Reilly adds.
So the final point to the Biden administration and organisations that are working on is clear: cybersecurity professionals have an advantage over their peers because they already live to standardise data; they view risk through a lense of complexity and costliness of failure, and if the two parties can collaborate effectively, there’s a chance that security professionals can finally understand the full extent of the supply chain ecosystem and, with any luck, secure it from future attacks.