Server electricity use doubled from 2000 to 2005

Worldwide server electricity use doubled between 2000 and 2005 despite growing environmental concern, according to a report issued Wednesday.

Server electricity use is growing faster in the Asia Pacific region (minus Japan) than anywhere on the planet. Server electricity use in the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan) grew 23 per cent a year from 2000 to 2005, significantly higher than the world average of 16 per cent annual growth, says the report written by Jonathan Koomey, a project scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and consulting professor at Stanford University. The research was sponsored by AMD.

The Chinese, Indian and Indonesian economies are growing at a very fast rate, fueling growth for the overall Asia Pacific region, which also includes Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries, Koomey said in a phone interview.

Worldwide electricity use doubled to 123 billion kWh by the end of the five years studied, including servers and associated cooling and equipment.

Total data centre electricity costs reached US$7.2 billion annually, and further increases projected for 2010 would require the creation of 10 new 1,000-megawatt power plants, according to Koomey.

The huge increase points to a global problem exacerbated by data centre managers not following best practices, such as using hot and cold aisles to optimize cooling and airflow, Koomey says.

“Most data centres are not operating at peak efficiency,” he says. “What we find is that this is no fault of the people running them. They’re embedded in a system that has incentives that are a bit misplaced.”

For example, IT and facilities budgets are usually separate, so there’s no incentive for IT to spend an additional dollar to improve efficiency, even if that dollar results in five-dollar savings in the facilities budget, he says. Plus, data centre space is usually paid for by the square foot, even though most of the costs are for power and cooling rather than floor space.

“If you’re not showing people the cost of their actions, they’re not going to behave in a way that’s cost-efficient,” Koomey says.

Koomey says he doesn’t think there’s any concrete data showing whether data centres tend to be less efficient in certain parts of the world. People building data centres in China are likely to have the same expertise as those in the United States, he adds.

In any case, the regional distribution of data centre electricity use shows a growing need for more efficiency in every part of the world.

In 2000, the United States accounted for 40 per cent of all server electricity use, while Western Europe accounted for more than 25 per cent and Japan a little more than 10 per cent.

The United States share will decrease to 34 per cent by 2010, while the Asia Pacific region’s share will become 16 per cent, up from one-tenth in 2000, Koomey predicts.

Koomey calculated electricity use based on IDC’s data for server shipments and installed base. Predictions are based on current trends, taking into account improved efficiency due to server virtualization and other factors.

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