Data center energy consumption has doubled since 2000

The energy consumed by data center servers and related infrastructure equipment in the U.S. and worldwide doubled between 2000 and 2005, according to a new study. What's driving this consumption? From users, it's their hunger for everything-web, from video on demand, music downloads, Internet telephony and more, says the study's author, Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor at Stanford University and staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. The study was commissioned by microprocessor vendor Advanced Micro Devices. The spike in power consumption was also due to a number of other trends, especially the proliferation of "lower end servers" costing under $25,000 in the U.S. and worldwide, says Koomey. In fact, the jump in overall power consumption was only 5% to 8% associated to power use per unit. A jump in the volume of servers in data centers is accountable for 90% of the growth in power consumption, Koomey says. "Trends in software -- such as the move to Linux and distributed platforms and away from operating systems that charge per server" have fueled the demand for greater numbers of low-end servers, he says. For the study, Koomey estimated power use per type of server multiplied by total install base of specific servers, for which analyst firm IDC provided data. While there's been a move towards lower-end servers, there's been a shift away mid-range server while high-end server volumes didn't change much from 2000 to 2005, Koomey says. In U.S. data centers in 2000, there were approximately 5.6 million servers installed in total, including about 4.9 million low-end servers; 663,000 mid-range servers; and 23,000 high-end servers, according to Koomey's study. By 2005, U.S. data centers totaled 10.3 million servers installed, including 9.9 million low-end servers; 387,000 midrange servers; and 22,200 high-end servers. Worldwide, datacenters in 2000 made up about 14.1 million installed servers, including 12.2 million low-end servers; 1.8 million midrange servers; and 66,000 high-end servers. However, by 2005 that worldwide server total climbed to about 27.3 million, including nearly 26 million low-end servers; 1.2 million midrange servers; and 59,000 high-end servers. That spike in data center servers contributed a doubling of energy consumption rates in a mere five years, according to the study. In the U.S. the power consumption in 2005 for servers and related equipment in data centers was equivalent to about five 1000 megawatt power plants, or your five typical nuclear or coal power plants, says Koomey. Worldwide the electricity consumption for the servers was equivalent to 14 power plants. The total electric bill to operate those servers and related infrastructure equipment was $2.7 billion in the U.S. and $7.2 billion worldwide, says Koomey. Total power consumed by data center servers in 2005 represented 0.6% of all electricity consumption in the U.S. in 2005. When you throw in the power consumed by data center's auxiliary infrastructure equipment, including network and cooling gear, that figure jumps to 1.2% of all electricity consumed in the U.S. That's about equivalent to all colour televisions in the U.S. Koomey suggests a number of things that companies can do to get a better handle on their energy consumption in their data centers, including deploying of virtualisation software; improving cooling strategies; being better aware of the total-cost of ownership of operating computer gear; and something as simple changing power supply products. "Power supply is a big thing, and that's just something you can drop in," he says.

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