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Data Center Energy Consumption is Growing

October 14, 2014 | 0 comments

Going paperless has long been touted as a way to help the environment by saving trees, reducing paper manufacturing, etc. But when paperwork disappears, the activities that replace it (email, internet use, social media, etc.) may actually contribute to increased energy usage.

There are close to 3 million data centers (and 12 million servers) across the country, and a new study shows that most small, mid-sized, and corporate data centers are wasting energy by continuing to draw power while doing little or no work.

In 2013, for example, data centers and their servers used nearly 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. But up to 30% of servers aren’t actually “awake” at any point in time; many other servers aren’t being used as efficiently as they could be. Because data centers typically run 24/7, they may consume up to 200 times more electricity than a typical office, says Pacific Gas & Electric.

Data centers are moving into the spotlight as a building type that needs to focus on energy efficiency. Last month, Grainger’s new data center was certified as the first LEED v4 data center in the world. The 27,000-square-foot data center has implemented unique ways to reduce energy consumption, including an air-cooling system that uses outside air to cool down the facility.

To evaluate data center energy consumption, a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating is often used to measure energy use of non-computing systems. The average data center PUE rating is 2.0; Grainger’s PUE is expected to be near 1.2. All in all, this new data center is expected to use up to 50% less energy for cooling than a similar data center.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, there are key changes that could be made to improve data center energy consumption:

  • Decommission servers that are obsolete
  • Utilize virtualization technology that allows multiple applications to run on a single physical server
  • Power down unused servers when they’re not being used
  • Invest in ENERGY STAR server equipment
  • Foster collaboration between IT and facilities management to increase energy-saving accountability

How much attention do you pay to your data center’s energy use (and how it contributes to the overall energy-use footprint of your organization)?


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