Leading Education Towards Data Center Sustainability

One-On-One with Paul Gorman, Head of Technical Development, CNet Training (CNet)

As head of technical development at CNet Training, Paul Gorman is responsible for designing and maintaining the technical content of the education programs throughout The Global Digital Infrastructure Education Framework. Following a rewarding career as a telecommunications technician in the British Army’s Royal Corps of Signals, Gorman joined Hewlett Packard as technical design manager engaged in a project undertaking for the UK Ministry of Defense that involved its entire global network infrastructure and data center capability.

With nearly 15 years of involvement in various aspects of further education, Gorman now incorporates innovative techniques that stimulate learning and excite learners. In an interview with InterGlobix Magazine’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Bedi, Gorman shares his perspective on sustainability, relating to digital infrastructure education and how he applies the lessons he learnt during his Army tenure to data center technical development.

What ignited your interest in sustainability?

A couple of unrelated events initially piqued my interest. About five years ago CNet started making its suite of education programs more accessible to a wider audience through a remote access capability including the newly released Certified Data Center Sustainability Professional (CDCSP¨) program. This initiative invited learners to choose between attending programs, either in-class or joining from home/office. The preference quickly swung in favor of remote attendance (it’s fair to say that the eventual onset of COVID-19 made it a slam dunk). During this period, the chilling message about the damage that we are doing to our planet and the urgent need to transition to a sustainable footing was being regularly aired loud and clear, and with increasing urgency. To cut a long story short, talk of carbon footprints sparked a realization that an unintended side effect of remote attendance is carbon reduction. With the assistance of an online calculator, in a short timeframe, I was able to create a carbon profile based on the journeys that might have been taken for the group to all attend in person, resulting in over 1.2 tons of carbon emissions. This may not be a lot, but in the application of positive thinking, initiatives like these can have a major impact on a global scale. Another notable development in recent years is the response of the data center sector in meeting the challenge of climate change. It has been refreshing to witness an industry on this scale take the initiative and not shy away from corporate responsibilities.

Paul Gorman, Head of Technical Development, CNet Training (CNet)

How prevalent is greenwashing in the data center industry?

In the data center industry, despite being probably the world’s largest public and private sector service provider, we generally don’t seek the same public recognition or notoriety, preferring to fly under the radar. That said, those outside of the industry who do understand the machinations of a data center might be left with the impression of a fossil fuel-guzzling monolith, spewing out carbon emissions at will, and are willing to decry any claims of sustainability achievements that are not clearly accurate, nor supported by the facts.

Let’s look at an example. MyDC1 (fictional) is a 2MW data center, which, until recently, received its energy from a utility supplier that generates power from fossil fuel. The business recently executed a project transferring its energy requirement to a utility company that sources 100% of its power from renewable sources. With great fanfare MyDC1 announced its green credentials, claiming that they were now a carbon neutral and environmentally sustainable facility. A laudable claim and a great achievement, but as always, the devil lies in the detail. A few things that MyDC1 did not expand upon:

  • 100% renewable energy sources do not automatically translate into carbon neutrality, with emissions related to their construction and operation.
  • They do not measure water usage efficiency, another aspect of sustainable operation.
  • The business sustainability strategy has yet to extend beyond the energy initiative.

Is this a case of out and out greenwashing, or simply an organization that wants to share a considerable success story? Only the readers will decide.

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