Energy Consumption is Getting Out-of-Hand

Data Centers are information factories that run the digital world. They are utilized by just about every segment of the economy including the financial sector, the industrial sector, education, technology and even the web hosting providers. Outside of the US government, companies like Google, Yahoo! and MSN control and maintain some of the most sophisticated state-of-art data centers in the world. Unfortunately, data centers are energy intensive facilities that require tens of MegaWatts of energy to operate. These data centers house hundreds of server racks and networking equipment that are designed to consume more than 25KW of power per hour. Surging demand for data storage is forcing data centers to upgrade to faster and more densely packed server systems. This high density computing environment becomes a great challenge for the cooling system. A typical facility can support approximately 1MW, but instead they are forced to handle power requirement that can be > 20 MW. Nationally 1.5% of US Electricity consumption was attributed to data center use in 2006. That power usage number is expected to double by 2011. Because of the significant data center building boom in the past 5 years, power and cooling constraints in existing facilities are strained and cannot keep up. As a result, the rising cost of ownership is getting out of control. Cost of electricity for computing and supporting infrastructure now surpasses capital cost of the IT equipment.

The US Department of Energy has established power reduction goals in conjunction with Green Grid partnership. By 2011, the goal is achieve a 25% energy savings overall in U.S. data center. This equates to approximately 10.7 billion kWh or equivalent to electricity consumed by 1 million typical U.S. households. By reducing power usage, we are able to contain carbon emissions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6.5 million metrics tons of CO2 per year. This potential energy savings between 20-40% are realizable and with more aggressive strategies, we can achieve better than 50% savings in energy usage.

The catch is that companies must be willing to fork out the money today to perform the retrofits. Because paybacks are short (i.e. between 1 to 3 years) companies can regain all of their investments while maintaining the potential to extend life and capacity of existing data center infrastructure but this also could allow for more IT equip – raising total energy use. Thus, innovative power reduction techniques must be utilized in order to keep energy consumption in-check. We all need to chip in and save a little energy everyday.

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