Data Centers Found Too Inefficient in the U.S.

10/01/2014 |

Server efficiency could be vastly improved, says NRDC report

With services such as cloud computing, e-commerce, and digital content gaining popularity by the day, data centers are one of the fastest-growing consumers of electricity in developed countries.

The National Resource Defense Council has created a report that shows that American data centers are not only consuming more energy but the amount of power they waste is going up as well.

In 2013, data centers in the U.S. consumed around 91 billion kWh of electricity and is projected to increase to 140 billion kWh annually by 2020. The report points out that the majority of energy usage is not in the large enterprise centers commonly reported on by the media but by small, medium, and corporate data centers that comprise up to 95% of all server energy usage.

The report points out issues such as the fact that the average server operates at only 12-18% efficiency, underutilization of power management software, and the estimated 20-30% of servers that remain plugged in but are unused. The report also suggests possible solutions to mitigate the effects of increasing data center energy usage:

1) The adoption of a simplified server utilization metric – One of the biggest obstacles to data center efficiency is underutilization of servers. The report recommends measuring the average server utilization in central processing units (CPU) as an affordable, understandable way to quickly produce opportunities to save energy.

2) Increased disclosure of data center energy and carbon performance – The release of data center energy consumption and performance statistics will provide transparency and raise awareness, motivating stakeholders to take a greater interest in not only the efficiency of their IT department, but also the costs associated with their data center usage.

3) Align incentives between decision makers – A major hurdle to increasing server efficiency is the breakdown of responsibility. The report suggests incorporating a single business model where IT and facilities management work together, share incentives, and implement common charge-back mechanisms to help scale virtualization, eliminate unused servers, and utilize more efficient hardware.

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