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Datacenters world wide use 1.1-1.5% of all electricity, according to a new study. In the U.S. the figure is 1.7-2.2%. Over the period 2005-2010 global electricity use by datacenters grew by around 56%, and in the U.S. by about 36%. Both global and U.S. electricity use by datacenters had doubled between 2000 and 2005, so this is a significantly slower growth rate over the more recent period.

The study, carried out by consultant Jonathan Koomey for the New York Times, is described here, where you can also find a link to the pdf. There is also an item about the study in Environmental Leader here.

Datacenter electricity use grew more slowly over the past five years because fewer servers were installed than in the earlier period, both because of the economic recession and due to increased use of virtualization and other energy-saving technologies. And many of the newer servers are serving the cloud, with higher utilization levels.

Even though Google has a large installed base of servers, the study estimates that “Google’s data center electricity use is about 0.01% of total worldwide electricity use and less than 1 percent of global data center electricity use in 2010. This result is in part a function of the higher infrastructure efficiency of Google’s facilities compared to in-house data centers, which is consistent with efficiencies of other cloud computing installations, but it also reflects lower electricity use per server for Google’s highly optimized servers.”

The study points out that cloud computing datacenters are more efficient than in-house servers, because they have much higher server utilization levels and much better infrastructure efficiencies. This implies that if computing continues to shift to the cloud the average efficiency of datacenters will continue to increase.

But even with these improved efficiencies, the growth in demand for computing will continue to drive growth in electricity demand for datacenters. Is there any limit to such growth? Can we expect electricity use by datacenters to grow to 2%, then 3%, then 4% of total global generating capacity?


This post is shared from David Wheat’s Doc’s Green Blog, where it was published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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  1. Trevor Naidoo
    After recently going through an interview transcript with the first CIO of the United States – Vivek Kundra – It would seem that the US Government is data center (and very unde-utilized as well) hog too :-). Admittedly, he has taken steps to rectify this situation before leaving for Harvard…

    My point is that you would find a similar situation in lots of other data centers. I think it will be a slow increase and stabilize exercise. Some of my reasons for saying so would be:
    – Optimization (higher usage of smaller data centers) should increase.
    – Cloud adoption should improve (once the security fear subsides somewhat).
    – The cloud environment supports multi-tenancy so server utilization is generally quite good.
    – Cloud adoption would naturally lead to less under-utilized data centers.
    – Greener technology is evolving rapidly.

    These are just some of my reasons…but I don’t expect to see exponential growth. There might be a spike if everyone rushes into Cloud adoption…

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  2. Michelle Crapo
    We use the internet, computers, datacenters for everything.

    Stop??  I don’t think we could.  Lower the usage.  Again I think that would be hard.  Better technology would help.   Hardware changes to use less “juice”.

    The “cloud”.  Mmmmm…  Hackers anyone?  I’m not sure if the confidential information could ever be loaded onto the cloud.  BUT I am someone who thinks the worse.  It does make economical sense.  And the security has got to be really good.  I can see using the could for processing but not for our database.  (If that even makes sense.  I’m not a hardware type person.)

    It would be interesting to see what thoughts are being developed.  Any other ideas on how to bring the electric usage down?  Electricity is money.  That makes it a good incentive for people to work on bringing it down.  I know I’m a pessimist.  Change happens because it impacts the bottom line more than it happens because people want to help the environment.  I’m sure someone smarter than I is working on it.  Because I can see it growing, growing, growing some more.  More and more countries are using datacenters as well as the people that already have them.  As we get more data they are expanding.

    Great blog!

    Michelle

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