06 Feb 2014
In 2012 the New York Times commissioned a study showing that worldwide, server farms’ energy use is equivalent to 30 nuclear power plants, roughly 2 percent of all electricity used. In fact, the report continued “energy efficiency varies widely from company to company … on average, they were using only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations.”
Okay, let’s do the math. This means industry data centers are seriously inefficent to the tune of about 27 billion watts each year, and undoubtedly growing since 2010. And that doesn’t count the huge, spinning flywheels or thousands of lead-acid batteries ready to take over when electrical fluctuations occur.
“It’s just not sustainable,” said Mark Bramfitt, a former utility executive. “It’s a waste,” said Dennis P. Symanski, a senior researcher at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a nonprofit industry group.
Why is this happening? “You do have to take into account that the explosion of data is what aids and abets this,” said Mr. Taylor of the Uptime Institute. “At a certain point, no one is responsible anymore, because no one, absolutely no one, wants to go in that room and unplug a server.” How did this come about? “We’ve overprovisioned … for years,” as Mr. Cappuccio, managing vice president and chief of research at Gartner, explained. “Let’s overbuild just in case we need it” he says, agreeing with Mr. Symanski of EPRI who shares that “they don’t get a bonus for saving on the electric bill. They get a bonus for having the data center available 99.999 percent of the time.”
With ever-growing energy needs, there’s no surprise data centers are among electrical utilities’ most prized customers. But “what’s driving that massive growth is the end-user expectation of anything, anytime, anywhere,” said David Cappuccio, a managing vice president and chief of research at Gartner, the technology research firm. “We’re what’s causing the problem.”
Problems & Solutions. It’s time to come to the aid of your country! The near-term consequences — absolute climate chaos — are simply too much a threat to soft-pedal what we all must now do.
Contact one of the many “green solutions” providers springing up every day who help enterprises significantly reduce ongoing server farm energy requirements. Hire industrial engineers as site-wide evangelists who specifically develop champion and monitor compliance to energy-saving programs.
Without immediate strong commitment to reducing energy use for whatever reasons important to an enterprise then it’s possible, just possible, the enterprise isn’t operating in the best interests of its shareholders, its customers, its workforce or ultimately, itself.
Indeed, as Mr. Cappuccio (Gartner Grup) might ask: “How in the world can you run a business like that?”