Data Centre Optimisation

TalkTalk has seen internet usage surge 40% year on year, but despite this, has been able to drive down energy use and emissions in data centres through energy efficiency innovations.

10,000 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

Before the work was completed.
Data centre after the work.
Data centre after the work was completed.

Our story

by Will Ennett, TalkTalk

According to work TalkTalk has undertaken with the United Nations, up to 80% of the emissions cuts the telecoms sector needs to reach net zero can be met through renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Every time you visit a website, our servers need to find the right address to get you to the right place, this is called a DNS request. In May 2021, we hit an average of 61 billion DNS requests per day. That averages out at more than 42 million requests per minute.

Our data traffic has been growing 40% every year, as more and more people use the internet throughout their daily lives. Yet despite this huge growth, we've managed to significantly reduce our direct emissions, and optimising our data centres has been instrumental to this.

Our equipment in exchanges and data centres requires large amounts of electronic equipment, in the form of very large units which emit a lot of heat and require constant cooling by fans. One of the engineers noticed that the fans, which had been installed at the same time, were still on the default setting of 100%. Over time, the older machines were being used less, but the fans were still using a lot of energy. By something as simple as observing this and lowering the output we were able to significantly improve our energy efficiency.

It could have gone unnoticed, but at TalkTalk we create a work environment where people can challenge the status quo and where smart observations can be made by our colleagues and acted on by the business. This simple change led to a general awareness of energy intensive initiatives across our network, which has since led to further changes and opportunities to find more energy efficient solutions in their place.

One such innovation is using external air to cool the rooms instead of the energy-intensive refrigeration-based cooling systems you would usually find in a data centre. These systems typically use around 85% less energy and have been successfully installed in two of our data rooms in the Greater Manchester region.

Our latest innovation linked to this initial idea relates to our diesel-powered backup generators. They are used if there are any outages, but now we're trialling vegetable oil in place of the diesel. Sometimes those initial small changes can snowball into larger ideas.

Our advice

Innovation can come from all sources. At TalkTalk, we listen and care about our employees and help to promote a workplace where people can present ideas and challenge the status quo. This particular initiative was the brainchild of one engineer who picked up on something small, which then made a big difference to our carbon emissions and energy efficiency. Companies should help to create a work environment where employees can be creative and develop new ways of doing things.

For us, technical due diligence is also essential. We were able to continually show and track our progress by using ISO standards, which we would recommend getting to grips with.

Our metrics

  • Amount of kWh savings.
  • Amount of CO2e savings.

Read more: https://www.talktalkgroup.com/our-responsibilities/the-environment

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