By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Maikel Bouricius
A week ago I had the great pleasure to visit Bogota, Colombia. Having been invited to speak at the Datacenter Dynamics conference about energy efficient datacenters and smart city development, I did some research to see what I could find on local sustainability initiatives. I did not find much information on energy efficient datacenters or technology related initiatives unfortunately.
However, I did find that Bogota had a prominent figure with an impact on the sustainable development of this city. Enrique Penalosa was the mayor of Bogota, from 1998 until 2001 only, but had a great influence on the city’s development in the years after him being in office. Penalosa had a revolutionary vision for Bogota with more space for green zones like parks, more and saver infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. About this he said:
Even years after Penalosa was in office, I could notice the results of his efforts, and when I was there his campaign teams were all over the city as he is running for the coming elections again.
In my preparation for my talk for the conference this made me realize an urban vision for a city is as important as the technology being developed for a sustainable development. At Green IT Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we already did experience this with our projects, but this is becoming increasingly so for cities on a global level.
Penalosa was once quoted saying:
I think most of this is true, from a technology perspective, a lot is possible if not everything. But to use the full potential of technology we need an open and progressive vision for cities, willingness to share expertise and people who understand doing things different might be not only what sustainability needs, but also creating competitive advantage.
This is what the well-known business strategist Michael Porter said about this: “Strategy is about making choices, it's about deliberately choosing to be different.”
In other words, developing cities based only on existing standards will not bring us much further, neither regarding sustainability nor economically.
In Bogota, I presented two initiatives which are illustrating all of the above. In Europe we see a future of energy efficient datacenters being integrated in smart cities. In Amsterdam we have been working on energy efficient datacenters for years now, and the smart city is in development as we speak. What is needed are the tools to enable datacenters to make flexible decisions regarding energy and connect them with their environment, the smart city. Within the European Geyser project, we are developing the tools which should bring us closer to this vision.
Also we are working very closely together with the people who are developing Amsterdam from an urban planning perspective. We are aware many more datacenters will come to Amsterdam, but for the first time we are integrating green IT related themes like datacenter cooling and energy re-use with the infrastructure plans of a green field area development, specifically for datacenters, called the Green Datacenter Campus. Only because the people in charge of this area are willing to think different in this development phase, we will be able to use the full potential of energy efficient datacenters as part of their smart environment in the future.
One of the most mentioned keywords during the conference in Bogota was “flexibility or flexible datacenters”. Which was very interesting, as it was the first time I have noticed this. In the past you would hear about “continuity”, “security” or “efficiency”. Flexibility is another role, it is showing a shift from operational excellence only, to adding a more pro-active attitude.
I think flexibility is the best friend of future cities, and if we can get this right and integrated into the urban vision of cities we can use the full potential of smart technology.