03 August 2011

How Much Juice Do Datacenters Use? New Study Says About 1.3% of All Electricity

Datacenters world wide use 1.1-1.5% of all electricity, according to a new study. In the U.S. the figure is 1.7-2.2%. Over the period 2005-2010 global electricity use by datacenters grew by around 56%, and in the U.S. by about 36%. Both global and U.S. electricity use by datacenters had doubled between 2000 and 2005, so this is a significantly slower growth rate over the more recent period.
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The study, carried out by consultant Jonathan Koomey for the New York Times, is described here, where you can also find a link to the pdf. There is also an item about the study in Environmental Leader here.

Datacenter electricity use grew more slowly over the past five years because fewer servers were installed than in the earlier period, both because of the economic recession and due to increased use of virtualization and other energy-saving technologies. And many of the newer servers are serving the cloud, with higher utilization levels.

Even though Google has a large installed base of servers, the study estimates that "Google’s data center electricity use is about 0.01% of total worldwide electricity use and less than 1 percent of global data center electricity use in 2010. This result is in part a function of the higher infrastructure efficiency of Google’s facilities compared to in-house data centers, which is consistent with efficiencies of other cloud computing installations, but it also reflects lower electricity use per server for Google’s highly optimized servers."

The study points out that cloud computing datacenters are more efficient than in-house servers, because they have much higher server utilization levels and much better infrastructure efficiencies. This implies that if computing continues to shift to the cloud the average efficiency of datacenters will continue to increase.

But even with these improved efficiencies, the growth in demand for computing will continue to drive growth in electricity demand for datacenters. Is there any limit to such growth? Can we expect electricity use by datacenters to grow to 2%, then 3%, then 4% of total global generating capacity?

This is crossposted to the SAP Community Network here.

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