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In late 2022, the launch of a highly sophisticated chatbot attracted one million users in just five days. It sparked a worldwide explosion of interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and also triggered fierce debates about whether its advancement would accelerate humanity’s salvation or its demise. But few on either side of the argument so far have mentioned the environmental impact of an exponential increase in data storage, computing power, and network availability.

Global technology firm NTT is one company that understands this critical dilemma and is taking proactive steps to pioneer sustainable data centers.

The torrent of AI into the mainstream is undeniable, and the capabilities of generative AI, which extends to text-to-image models that can generate digital images from natural language descriptions, marks a new frontier for technology. Its progress shows no signs of slowing, with AI—in all its forms—becoming ubiquitous in our daily lives and starting to reshape business models.

Power demand rise and NTT’s vision

Transformational technology

Healthcare is an area in which AI’s transformative potential is provoking excitement. It has the power to gather and store patient data autonomously, track the spread of diseases, and revolutionize drug discovery.

Further, AI imaging is poised to guide medical practitioners in determining appropriate treatments. For example, AI can detect if a tumor is benign or malignant and whether an invasive, time-consuming biopsy is needed. As well as streamlining healthcare processes, it can improve preventative measures, enhancing overall wellness outcomes.

Little wonder the worldwide market for AI in healthcare is expected to grow to $188 billion by the end of the decade, from $11 billion in 2021, according to recent research.

More broadly, AI’s role in automating repetitive tasks is enhancing productivity and efficiency in assembly and packaging throughout the manufacturing sector. By streamlining customer services and aiding in data-driven decision-making, it is reshaping all industries.

Better data infrastructure

However, the mass adoption of AI necessitates expansive data centers if the long-term business opportunities it promises are to be realized.

With forecasts placing the data-center market at $255 billion by 2026, companies such as NTT are at the vanguard of an AI-driven future. The company, which is headquartered in Japan, is investing in data-center innovation to meet the rapidly rising demand for high-performance computing.
Yet this incredible growth poses dire sustainability concerns.

Energy demand from data centers and data transmission networks each account for up to 1.5 percent of global electricity use, according to calculations by the International Energy Agency. As demand for AI increases, so does the power it requires, which shows a need to redefine and modernize the underlying architecture to align with global carbon-neutral goals. The often overlooked question is how to balance this escalating demand for power against the pivotal goal of sustainability.

“AI is already transforming our industry, and this exciting new technology mainly drives the record computing needs we continue to see globally,” says Doug Adams, CEO and President of NTT Global Data Centers. “We are focusing on meeting the increased demand sustainably when it comes to construction, power sources and cooling technologies.”

Currently, NTT operates data centers in over 20 countries and markets. Adams explains that while it continues to expand its data-center presence in existing markets, AI is “making us look at other locations and other data-center designs to support the power and density requirements.”

We have built solutions with clients globally that deploy innovative, sustainable ways to cool and power new servers.
Florian Winkler – COO of NTT Global Data Centers

Sustainability solutions

Several examples highlight how the company is pioneering sustainable solutions for the next generation of data centers. Its All-Photonics Network (APN) provides for optical based technologies with extremely low latency, low power consumption and high capacity, exemplifying its commitment to sustainable innovation. The integration of hyperscale and regional data centers through robust, low-latency connectivity ensures streamlined operations that consume less energy.

In India, the recently opened Chennai 2 data center campus offers 34.8MW of critical IT load across 5,000 racks and offers the option for water-cooled and immersion-based solutions that dissipate heat more efficiently. This project is unique in that it uses the MIST subsea cable system to create an interconnected data center platform. The cutting-edge digital infrastructure is turning Chennai into a ‘digital gateway’ that connects India to the rest of Asia and the wider world.

Solutions for tomorrow

Additionally, NTT has invested in forward-thinking initiatives such as the Space Environment and Energy Laboratories, launched in 2020 to analyze the planet from the perspective of its space environment. The firm’s new digital-twin data centers in Europe are set to provide more evidence of its collaborative and holistic approach to sustainable innovation. And, as AI continues to drive demand and require higher densities, the company is identifying new ways to meet customer needs without sacrificing sustainability.

“Not only do we provide an optimized environment for high-performance AI systems, but we’re also harnessing AI itself to enhance data-center management,” says Florian Winkler, COO of NTT Global Data Centers, stressing the company’s commitment to the cause and the importance of partnerships to speed up progress. “We have built solutions with clients globally that deploy innovative, sustainable ways to cool and power new servers.”

With an unwavering focus on greener data centers and innovative solutions, NTT is building a more sustainable future for everyone. As AI’s transformative force continues to reshape the world, the company’s vision for sustainable data centers confirms its commitment to the evolving needs of tomorrow.