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Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
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Gary Audin | August 24, 2011 |

 
   

Data Center Power: Less than Expected

Data Center Power: Less than Expected Efficiency initiatives and the slow economy combined to reduce power usage.

Efficiency initiatives and the slow economy combined to reduce power usage.

The predictions were higher, the reality lower; data centers are more efficient than anticipated. The New Times requested a report from Analytics Press prepared by Jonathan Koomey, Consulting Professor at Stanford University. The New Times article "Data Centers' Power Use Less Than Was Expected" summarized the report. The full report, "Growth in Data Center Electricity Use 2005 to 2010" provides greater detail.

My previous blogs, Get Moving on the Green Closet and Energy Star Comes to IPT/UC Servers have focused on actions that CIOs can take to reduce the data center's energy consumption. This latest report, published on August 1, 2011 demonstrates that both the equipment manufacturers and the enterprises have taken steps to rein in energy consumption.

Energy consumed by data centers in 2010 is estimated to be between 1.7% and 2.2% of total U.S. power consumption. Internationally, the data center electricity consumption was between 1.1% and 1.5%. The projected electricity consumption predicted by the EPA report to Congress in 2007 had been much higher. The U.S. data center electricity consumption grew 36% while the worldwide growth was 56% from 2005 to 2010.

Google, a company that builds its own energy efficient servers, accounted for less than 1% of the worldwide data center energy consumption. It appears that Google data centers are operated more efficiently than the mainstream enterprise data centers.

The installed base of servers from 2000 to 2005 doubled. The server growth from 2005 to 2010 was much slower, growing about 20% in the U.S. The international server growth was about 30+%. The forecast for the next few years is that the growth will be slower than 2005 to 2010. One interesting observation is that mid-range servers declined faster than expected while high-end servers grew faster than expected.

Manufacturers started to deliver more efficient systems starting in 2006. This is when the EPA sponsored two public meetings focused on energy efficiency. The EPA report "EPA Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Efficiency," issued in August 2007, also focused on data center electricity consumption, especially as it relates to the federal government. A majority of the IT equipment manufacturers participated in the meetings.

The continuing expansion of communications networks and services will have an effect on electricity growth, with much of the equipment being outside data centers. The growth of storage systems may cause the electricity consumption to increase faster in the future.

The New Times article stated:

"Mostly because of the recession, but also because of a few changes in the way these facilities are designed and operated, data center electricity consumption is clearly much lower than what was expected, and that’s really the big story," said Mr. Koomey.

"Though Mr. Koomey was unable to separate the impact of the recession from that of energy-saving technologies, the decline in use is surprising because data centers, buildings that house racks and racks of computers, have become so central to modern life. They are used to process e-mail, conduct Web searches and handle online shopping as well as banking transactions and corporate sales reports."

The bottom line is there a few factors that have contributed to slower data center electricity consumption:

* More efficient products
* Less server acquisition due to the slow economy
* The significant increase in virtualization
* Enterprise awareness that energy costs were getting out of control
* More efficient data center facility design with energy reduction becoming a more important design goal
* More efficient cooling systems ( 43+% of the data center electricity bill is for cooling the equipment)

The electricity consumption reduction is surprising to some in the industry because of the number of new and expanded data centers. The growth of cloud computing may initially raise electricity consumption but should in the long run slow electricity growth by retiring the server farms that exist in enterprises today.





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