can data centers power all homes …

How green is your data center? Stumbled upon an amazing post and comments over at The It Sanctuary

According to figures from IT market research company Forrester Research, a data centre with 2,500 servers – relatively small compared to many out there – will devour enough electricity over the course of one month to power 420,000 homes for a year. *

That’s bad news for the environment – and it also takes its toll on a company’s bottom line. Analysts at IT market analyst firm Gartner calculate that energy expenditure typically accounts for about 10 per cent of the IT budget, and is likely to rise to as much as 50 per cent over the next few years, as energy prices continue to soar.

As the comments on the post hint at – how well is IT covered within an organisations ISO 14001 scope, impact and assessment exercises? Or even within their CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility remits? With something like 60% of a buildings / organisations energy requirement being IT related, it needs to be a central theme.

But its the ability of data center energy to power homes that needs urgent investigation. If these numbers are correct thats a staggeringly high, unbelievably high, number of homes and would resolve the domestic electricity demand at a stroke. I will check the research and invite Forrester Research to comment here,

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2 Responses to can data centers power all homes …

  1. A key issue is the extent to which a data centre is used efficiently. Too often servers – the core information processing units within data centres – are under-utilised, yet still powered on with consequent demands on cooling, etc. Also, in many organisations, the IT function is not aware of or responsible for paying for its power consumption, leading many CIOs and IT managers to focus on ensuring processing capacity regardless of its environmental impact.

    Research by GDCM and Quocirca (March 2008) showed that almost half (47%) of organisations did not measure server utilisation levels. Among these, almost half of data centre managers and CIOs (46%) believed their servers to be over 75% utilised – even though the industry average is below 25% (http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS142883+19-Mar-2008+PRN20080319). Server utilisation rates are often as low as 10%-15%, a huge waste of power and money. By right-sizing their IT, businesses can make substantial cost savings, enhance corporate reputation, and make a positive difference to the environment (strategies might include consolidation, virtualisation, energy efficient hardware such as blade servers) (see IBM Research September 2007 – http://www.ibm.com/news/au/en/2007/09/20070918_green_it_low.html).

    In short, if we can improve server utilisation in data centres then we will immediately reduce the amount of waste energy expended in maintaining their continued operation.

    From a software-as-a-service (SaaS) perspective, I have also been thinking about how centralising processing power in industry-scale data centres can reduce the need for organisations to maintain their own separate, always-on IT infrastructures. The argument is that surely, it is better for, say, 100 modest-sized companies to use SaaS solutions to manage email and other applications that will at best be used sporadically; equally, the single data centre will be preferable to multiple IT systems that have been accumulated gradually over time and which does not reflect the latest advances in energy efficiency, etc.

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  2. fairsnape says:

    Thanks for this Paul. I guess we will see more and more SaaS applications in time .

    Is the level of wasted energy really as high as the Forrester research reportedly indicates?

    This isn’t the first time I have seen wasted IT energy being measured in terms of domestic power equivalent. Is there something here?

    For example, the heat generated from equipment ‘sucked off’ and used as a heat source for the office or nearby housing as a CDH scheme? – rather than using more energy to cool

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