Putting the Energy Consumption of Worldwide Data Centers into Perspective – Part 1

Fact: In 2010, the cost for powering and cooling the worldwide server base was about $43 billion, with cooling accounting for 30% or $12.9 billion of that figure. To put the energy consumption of worldwide data centers into perspective, the global energy requirements for data centers equaled 1.5x the energy requirement to power New York City.

Fact: Data centers are responsible for about 2% of global carbon emissions and use 80 million    megawatt-hours of energy annually. If the current growth rate were to continue, without improving energy efficiency, data centers will produce 359 megatons of CO2 by 2020, equivalent to the CO2 produced by 48% of the cars estimated to be on American roads at that time.

Fact: From 1998 to 2007 server performance increased 75x while the performance per watt has increased 16x. This implies that, for every watt consumed, the consumer is getting 16x the throughput that they got in 1998. Roughly speaking, the performance/watt of a server doubles every 2 years. This steadily increasing performance requires increasingly greater power capacity. The trend toward virtualization, the growth of applications like video streaming, and the massive expansion of social media have all contributed to a massive demand for higher-performing machines.

Fact: Traditionally, every watt of power devoted to computer processing in data centers required a half watt of power for cooling and lighting. This ratio has now flipped: Every watt consumed by computing resources now requires two watts of power for cooling and lighting. The result is that, even though global spending on servers has increased on an almost linear basis over the past 15 years, we have seen a dramatic increase of 400% in spending on power and cooling over the same period.

Ultimately, the evolution of IT network technologies and management systems, changing ideas of how to provide for reliability and redundancy in networks, and the need to be environmentally responsible will challenge existing paradigms of what a “DataCenter” is. Electrical utility companies are already planning for a future that includes far more distributed power generation, with a variety of renewable, nonpolluting power sources located close to the loads they serve. Prefab Data Centers on wheels are available today, as are mobile, liquid-cooled enclosures that can go most anywhere there is space, a power source, and a robust network connection. In the future, for many enterprises, the “DataCenter” may be more of a concept than a place.

Greening your Data Center and building an environmentally sustainable future for IT will require imagination, new skills, new thinking – a whole new perspective. It’s a challenge but, it can be done. Your thoughts?

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