Uptime: Energy Use Soars at Top Data Centers

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Energy use among the top tier of data centers soared in 2006-2007, rising at a 24 percent annual growth rate, according to new data from the Uptime Institute. That growth rate exceeds projections from last year’s EPA report on data center energy use, and marks an “abrupt change” from earlier trends, according to Ken Brill of the Uptime Institute. Brill provides an overview of the latest data in a podcast on the Institute’s web site.

The Uptime data is based on actual energy use among members of the Institute’s Site Uptime network. The entire network had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 11 percent, slightly above the 9 percent growth predicted in the EPA report on Enterprise Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency, which was delivered to Congress on Aug. 3. But that 11 percent rate is deceptive, according to Brill, who says a third of data centers with lower energy usage are showing no growth at all, while the top tier of users – a group of 50 companies with data centers averaging 60,000 square feet – are seeing dramatic growth in energy consumption. Brill says the power growth at these large users is unprecedented, and has become more pronounced in recent surveys.


Additional details will be presented tomorrow (March 13) at the Ziff-Davis 2008 Data Center Summit, and the full report, titled Revolutionizing Data Center Energy Efficiency will be released April 30 at the Uptime Institute Symposium in Orlando, Fla.

Brill says Uptime is doing additional research and analysis to identify whether energy growth trends are diverging according to business sector (i.e. financial applications, content delivery). Another focus is the role of data center virtualization, which is being used by many large providers to consolidate servers. Uptime’s research finds that the upward trend in the number of servers is slowing, even as energy usage increases – suggesting that virtualization is shifting computing load to more powerful servers. But the average load per rack remains at 1.5 kW, suggesting that rising server density is not the primary issue driving the increase.

What’s left to explain the surge? We’ll wait to see/hear more from Uptime, but one possible explanation is that utilization of data center space is increasing. If so, that would only accelerate two key trends that have emerged to address data center power and cooling challenges – redesigning existing data center space and building new data centers optimized for energy efficiency.

Brill says that unless the trends are moderated or reversed, the data center sector can expect growing attention from regulators. “What this means is that data center electric consumption is the fastest growing sector in the U.S. economy,” Brill says in the podcast.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.