We Want the Power!

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The only thing hungrier than Americans at Thanksgiving dinner are our data centers and their appetite for power.

The power cravings are due to our ever-increasing ramp up of Internet usage. Yes, all those senseless YouTube videos that your friends make of their cats are adding to the overall power consumption. In fact, it would take 7 million DVDs for each hour the internet has existed to capture all of the existing internet data, and that’s expected to quadruple by 2016. So you can imagine, the amount of energy it requires to store and power our data (both kitty videos and the relevant data too) is astronomical.

Data Center Energy Usage

US Data Centers use more energy than the auto industry, and yet are notably very inefficient. Data Centers often have power densities 100 times greater than typical office buildings. So efficiency is critical. Data center power is required for the IT equipment but also for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). A metric has been developed to measure data center energy efficiency – Power Usage Effectiveness or PUE. PUE measures Total Facility Power divided by IT Equipment Power.

The average US data center has a PUE if 2. Meaning that only one half of the electricity consumed goes to the IT equipment.

That data center inefficiency comes from many sources. Most online providers run at maximum capacity around the clock regardless of demand. A single data center can use more power than a medium sized town. If you’ve heard the term, “ping, pipe, power” – it refers to colocation facilities or data centers that supply rack or floor space where customers can “ping” their computers remotely, access electrical “power” for operations and continuity, and a connection, which is the “pipe” or bandwidth to and from the Internet.

As customers jam more and more storage and processing power into smaller spaces, more and more power is required from the data center.

Power and the continuity of power is a hot issue in the data center world. In fact, in some parts of Europe, data center space is sold by power consumption (Megawatts) rather than actual rack or floor space. While not common in the US – yet – the trend is real and headed stateside. Additionally, many data centers are investing in “green” improvements over the next 4 years (and reducing their reliance on not-so-eco-friendly diesel generators). This trend is projected to actually reduce data center electricity consumption by 33%.

On the other hand, historic trends project growing consumption. It will be interesting to see how this progresses, but it will be an important measurement for IT and businesses in general in the coming few years.


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