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More Efficient Data Centers Lower Power Consumption

August 2, 2011

According to a new study, more efficient data centers and a slowing economy has held up the rapid growth of electricity used in data centers.

Researcher and Stanford University consulting professor Jonathan Koomey said electricity use grew about 36 percent in the U.S. from 2005 to 2010 and 56 percent globally.

He said that place is lower than the doubling of data center electricity use that happened from 2000 to 2005.

As cloud computing becomes increasingly popular, giant data centers are continuously being built. 

Koomey believes that globally, data centers consumed between 1.1 percent and 1.5 percent in 2010.  The number in the U.S. is between 1.7 percent and 2.2 percent.

According to Koomey’s study, a 2007 EPA report predicted electricity use would increase at a more rapid rate than what has occurred since then.

Koomey said Google uses less than 1 percent of the electricity used by data centers, which is a sign that data centers are run relatively efficiently.

The main reasons for the overall lower-than-anticipated electricity growth rate for data centers is the economic recession and increased industry focus on efficiency.

The New York Times reported that fewer low-end “volume severs” were installed than predicted in a 2007 EPA report to Congress on data centers.

Koomey said the growth of cloud computing aids the overall efficiency of data centers.

“Because cloud computing installations typically have much higher server utilization levels and infrastructure efficiencies than do in-house data centers (with power usage effectiveness for some specific facilities lower than 1.1) increased adoption of cloud architectures will result in lower electricity use than if the same computing services were delivered using more conventional approaches,” he said in a press release.

The New York Times said analysts reported that the naming conclusions from Koomey’s study makes sense, but the slower growth may be temporary.

“The numbers do make sense,” Kenneth Brill, founder of the consulting company Uptime Institute, told the Times. “But they shouldn’t be taken as indicating the problem’s over. There is certainly increasing energy consumption and that should be a concern for everyone.”

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