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Cloud and Data Centres Jul 18, 2023

What part do next-generation data centres play in making the cloud sustainable?

By Fiona Hughes Compute and Cloud Proposition lead for BT in Ireland

Next-generation data centres are crucial in making cloud transformation sustainable for businesses. They incorporate new technologies, designs and operational strategies to address evolving business needs, increase efficiency, and support emerging trends like cloud computing, big data analytics and IoT (Internet of Things). They’re built with sustainability, scalability, and flexibility in mind.

As the adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures increases, data centres are going through significant transformation. With the explosive growth of data and the number of businesses going through digital transformation, sustainability has become an essential part of corporate strategy.

The importance of sustainability in data centres

According to a recent survey we commissioned alongside Microsoft, 94% of businesses think sustainability is an important consideration in their infrastructure transformation plans. Businesses are actively looking for solutions that not only meet their operational needs, but also provide sustainability benefits. As a leader in climate and sustainability action for nearly three decades, we’re committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by the end of March 2031 – a commitment that extends to driving the development of new, sustainable next-generation data centres.

Data centre evolution

Data centres gained prominence with the emergence of the internet. The subsequent burst of the dotcom bubble in the early noughties paved the way for virtualisation, which was a game-changer as it offered scalability and density. Virtualisation, in turn, made the Cloud a reality and drove the evolution of data centres.

By the late noughties, data centre efficiency took centre stage, prompting the creation of new management and energy efficiency technologies to address costs and meet environmental targets. Today, the need for greater hardware efficiency and compute utilisation is behind the drive for improvements in the average power usage effectiveness (PUE) for many providers. In our data centres in Ireland, we’ve succeeded in cutting our PUE metric from an average of 2 to 1.6, and our newest data centres achieve an impressive PUE of 1.1. This reduction has been helped by bringing in free cooling technologies, which significantly save water and reduce cooling costs but also minimise our environmental impact.

Businesses are reducing the amount of powered-up equipment on their premises – either because the machines themselves have been physically moved out, or because the processes and applications have shifted to data centres. The convergence of distributed server rooms into data centres allows for a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to managing computing infrastructure. It helps counter the perception of data centres as being power-hungry, by promoting efficiency and optimised use of power within a single facility. Next-generation data centres represent the evolution of traditional data centres to meet the demands of modern computing.

Our data centre experience in Ireland

We have 20 years’ experience in running and supporting data centres in Ireland. Our first data centre in Citywest Dublin was established in 2000; since then, through continuous efficiency investments, we’ve put over €100m in our Irish data centre business. With the opening of our Ballycoolin Dublin data centre in January 2023, we now operate five data centres in Ireland. On top of this, we’ve enhanced our range of managed cloud services and solutions by making a strategic alliance with Rackspace. This collaboration means we can give our customers comprehensive, secure, and seamlessly integrated data centre and multi-cloud solutions.

Ireland as the tech hub of Europe

Ireland has emerged as the most important tech hub in Europe, with renowned global companies establishing data centres in the country. Several factors have contributed to Ireland's success, including its favourable climate, ease of doing business, a well-connected fibre network, and an abundance of skilled personnel.

Ireland has proved to be an ideal ecosystem for data centres, one that fosters knowledge, expertise and innovation in designing, building, and operating these facilities. The industry understands the strategic importance of a reliable and renewable power supply and is actively looking at addressing the challenges, supporting Ireland's green energy transition through onsite power generation and storage.

We’re already using 100% renewable electricity across our operations globally, while other sustainability measures include the use of SD-WAN to allow for greater consolidation of technologies in order to push down power usage.

The role of well-designed data centres in Cloud adoption

Adopting the cloud within well-designed, energy-efficient data centres provides significant benefits. Co-location in shared data centres, where multiple companies run their own servers, can achieve energy efficiency on a par with public cloud data centres. Factors such as the location, energy sourcing and workload configuration are important considerations. Businesses are increasingly realising the potential that co-location has to improve their overall sustainability.

We are leading the charge in sustainable sourcing through our new global procurement company, BT Sourced, which is mandated to carry out procurement from renewable sources.


The evolution of data centres is essential for achieving sustainable cloud transformation. By focusing on energy efficiency, renewable power sources and reducing carbon emissions, next-generation data centres play a pivotal role in supporting businesses' sustainability objectives. As an industry leader, we remain committed to their ongoing development.

For more information, please explore our sustainable data centre solutions here