Data centre electricity use continues to increase at an alarming rate

The New York Times recently commissioned Jonathan Koomey to study the growth in data center electricity use between 2005 and 2010. Koomey’s study has a few key findings:

  • Assuming that the midpoint between the Upper and Lower bound cases accurately reflects the history, electricity used by data centers worldwide increased by about 56% from 2005 to 2010 instead of doubling (as it did from 2000 to 2005), while in the US it increased by about 36% instead of doubling.
  • Electricity used in global data centers in 2010 likely accounted for between 1.1% and 1.5% of total electricity use, respectively. For the US that number was between 1.7 and 2.2%.
  • Electricity used in US data centers in 2010 was significantly lower than predicted by the EPA’s 2007 report to Congress on data centers. That result reflected this study’s reduced electricity growth rates compared to earlier estimates, which were driven mainly by a lower server installed base than was earlier predicted rather than the efficiency improvements anticipated in the report to Congress.
  • While Google is a high profile user of computer servers, less than 1% of electricity used by data centers worldwide was attributable to that company’s data center operations.

I’m very disappointed with John Markoff’s reporting on Koomey’s study. Markoff has written tremendous articles and even a few books that I’ve read (such as Cyberpunk).

But this article in the NYTimes is sub-standard. His story lead is that data center electricity use did not grow as fast as expected. Who cares? It grew by 56%, compared to 36% growth in the rest of the United States excluding data centers! The story here is that data center electricity use continues to increase at an alarming rate.

The findings are not particularly surprising. The economic downturn has slowed corporate growth, which thereby slowed data center growth. And data centers are still on track to double their electricity consumption every 10 years. That hasn’t changed.

I was glad that Koomey points out that Google’s environment is actually a very small part of the overall data center landscape — less than 1% of the servers deployed. Sentilla is providing similar tools to those home-brewed (NIH) by Google to the other 99.9% of data centers and IT organizations.

Banks, Insurance companies, Telecoms, Manufacturers, and others don’t have the $50+ million yearly budget that Google does to build efficiency monitoring, management, and automation tools. That’s where software comes in to help you plan, analyze, and act on IT efficiencies with immediate, granular visibility into what everything in your IT operations is doing.

Joe Polastre is co-founder and chief technology officer at Sentilla. Joe is responsible for defining and implementing the company’s global technology and product strategy. Winner of the 2009 Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal 40 Under 40 award and named one of BusinessWeek’s Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs, Joe often speaks about energy management and the role of physical computing - where information from the physical world is used to make energy efficiency decisions. Before joining Sentilla, Joe held software development and product manager positions with IBM, Microsoft, and Intel. Joe is active in numerous organisations, including The Green Grid, US Green Building Council, ACM, and IEEE. Joe holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S. in Computer Science from Cornell University.