Big Data is the current buzzword of the IT world. It makes big promises to entice customers.

Even though the adoption rates of Big Data are slow in our part of the world, it will slowly get entrenched with time, as all successful technologies do.

However, there is a downside to Big Data that is hardly discussed.

A future is not far when data will grow beyond human management capabilities. As a result, inefficient data centres will consume and waste huge amounts of energy putting even more strain on our fragile environment.

This scenario was recently painted by Basis Bay, a leading global provider of sustainable outsourcing solutions in Information Technology (IT) and builder of Asia's first Green Data Centre.

Founded in 1996 and with a focus in the premium Enterprise IT space, Basis Bay has since established operations in more than 30 locations in 16 countries throughout Asia Pacific and Europe, servicing over 300 clients including key global multinational Financial Services companies.

The connection between Big Data and Green House emissions

Dato Praba Thiagarajah, CEO of Basis Bay and the company's Chief Enterprise Architect, Tony Murphy marshaled some very interesting data points that underlined their concerns.

According to McKinsey Research, IT will account for 3-5 percent of green house gas emissions by 2020. Currently, 30 billion watts of electricity are needed to create, move and store data worldwide. Over the next seven years, data will grow 10 times to roughly 40 trillion gigabytes. When you consider watts wasted for every watt used on computation, the potential environmental impacts could be much higher, they argued.

In this context, current practices adopted by technology providers, companies and individuals are creating a data mountain that is wholly unsustainable, said Murphy at a media and analyst briefing in Singapore on 28 August.

According to Dato Praba, our concept of big data management and cloud computing are stagnated in IT strategies conceived many years ago for managing resources in a largely physical world.

Moving huge amounts of data from the enterprise to cloud "sweat shops" (his terminology) simply transfers and in many cases magnifies the inefficiency and waste elements.

We need to see data as a tangible resource that needs to be managed, with sustainability in mind, he said.

"Do we really need company dinner photos from five years ago to be available 24 x 7 on high availability compute networks that consume vast amounts of energy?" he asked.

His solution? Simply move the data we don't need so often into systems that can be booted up when needed.

The reduction in response time would be acceptable in most cases if users understand the positive benefits on the environment and related costs, he said.

This approach is one example of Basis Bay's holistic approach to sustainability by adopting Green IT best practices.

The Malaysian origin company has identified four key areas that have direct impact on IT operations and the environment: Smart Procurement, Green Data Centres, Technology Lifecycle Management, and IT Infrastructure Optimisation.

Going green makes business sense

According to Murphy, many businesses still have the misconception that going green is an expensive exercise that might not have significant return on investment. "Green economics are based on reducing waste and this has a significant impact on the bottom line," he said. "The direct impacts of Green IT will drive IT operating costs down by 20-30 percent in a typical medium-sized enterprise. If smart procurement is practised, CAPEX budgets can be slashed significantly from day one, regardless of the enterprise size."

Dato Praba suggested that Southeast Asian nations work together to design and build green data centres.

"MNCs would want to store their big data in our regional data centres if we demonstrate we can operate at higher efficiencies and with smaller carbon footprints," he said.