Study: Data Center Energy Woes Will Intensify

If current trends continue unchecked, data center greenhouse gas emissions will quadruple by 2020, according to a joint study by the Uptime Institute and McKinsey & Company. The study, released today at the Uptime Symposium in Orlando, calls for a doubling of the energy efficiency of large-scale corporate computing facilities by 2012. The authors warned that attaining that goal will require “an immediate overhaul of corporate management practices,” including the establishment of “energy czar” positions in major corporations.

The report, “Revolutionizing Data Center Energy Efficiency – —Key Analyses,” is the result of a year-long collaborative study by McKinsey and the Uptime Institute. The study is consistent with recent warnings from Uptime that energy use among the top tier of data centers soared in 2006-2007, rising at a 24 percent annual growth rate.

From a greenhouse gas perspective, the issue goes beyond building efficient new data centers, according to said Kenneth Brill, founder and executive director of Uptime Institute. The data center industry must also address energy woes at older data centers that will remain in use for years to come.

“While the design of the next generation of ‘green’ data centers gets a lot of attention and is certainly a worthwhile pursuit, we’re putting forward the case in this report that improving efficiency in existing sites will lower energy usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster and more significantly with less cost,” said Brill.

An average data center today consumes energy equivalent to that used by 25,000 American homes, the study found. As a whole, the energy consumption in data centers is almost 0.5 percent of world production.

To improve energy efficiency in large-scale corporate data centers, the report recommends the three solutions:

  1. Mandate inclusion of true total cost of ownership, including data center facilities, in the business-case justification of new products and applications to throttle excess demand.
  2. Rapidly mature and integrate asset management capabilities
  3. Formally move accountability for data center critical facilities expense and operations to the CIO and appoint an internal “Energy Czar” with an operations and technology mandate to double IT energy efficiency by 2012.

To achieve the recommended doubling of energy efficiency, McKinsey and Uptime suggest that equipment manufacturers and industry groups establish uniform metrics, along the lines of the metrics used for automobile fuel consumption, that will measure the individual and combined energy efficiency of corporate, public-sector and third-party-hosted data centers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing an Energy Star program for servers and other data center equipment, and is also working on a metric that will measure the energy efficiency of data center facilities.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large 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.