Data Centers’ Power Use Less Than Was Expected
If the estimate is accurate, it could confirm the widely held industry perception that Google, with its many large data centers, is relatively more efficient than the mainstream of the data center industry. A vast majority of data center designers choose to use standard industry equipment, not equipment specialized for particular computing tasks.
A study shows that, partly because of the 2008 recession, power consumption by data centers hasn’t grown at expected rates.
The study suggests that Google’s centers are more efficient than most.
In the new study, prepared at the request of The New York Times, Mr. Koomey found that electricity used by data centers worldwide grew significantly, but it was an increase of only about 56 percent from 2005 to 2010. In the United States, power consumption increased by 36 percent, according to Mr. Koomey’s report, titled “Growth in Data Center Power Use 2005 to 2010.”
“Mostly because of the recession, but also because of a few changes in the way these facilities are designed and operated, data center electricity consumption is clearly much lower than what was expected, and that’s really the big story,” said Mr. Koomey.
The influential report issued by the E.P.A. in August of 2007 estimated that national energy consumption by computer servers and data centers would nearly double from 2005 to 2010 to roughly 100 billion kilowatt hours of energy at an annual cost of $7.4 billion. It predicted the centers’ demand for power in the United States would rise by 2011 to 12 gigawatts of power, or the output of 25 major power plants, from 7 gigawatts, or about 15 power plants.
“Of course, the market is expanding,” said Jimmy Clidaras, principal engineer for platforms and infrastructure at Google. “We’re doing stuff today in the cloud that we never would have thought of. Music used to be at home and now it’s in the sky.”
“The numbers do make sense,” said Kenneth Brill, founder of the Uptime Institute, an industry consulting group based in Santa Fe, N.M. “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.”
Fueled by an insatiable demand for new Internet services and a shift to so-called cloud computing services that are largely hosted in commercial data centers and in the large data farms operated by companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, there has been an increasing discussion about the growing percentage of the nation’s electricity that will be consumed by vast data centers being constructed at a record pace.
But the new report indicates that electricity used by global data centers in 2010 remained relatively modest. “Electricity used in global data centers likely accounted for between 1.1 percent and 1.5 percent of total electricity use, respectively. For the U.S. that number was between 1.7 percent and 2.2 percent,” according to the report.