Emerson: Productivity Gains Offset Energy Use

When the EPA released its report on data center energy, it was widely noted that data centers used more electricity in 2006 than all the color TVs in the U.S. My immediate reaction: “Okay, but which contributes more productivity to the U.S. economy?”

The same thought has occurred to the folks at Emerson Network Power, who have released an analysis placing data centers’ rising energy use in a broader context. Emerson’s conclusion? The productivity gains seen inside data centers dwarf those in other sectors of the economy (like the auto industry, as noted in the above graphic).

“While there has been a significant increase in energy consumption in IT and data center environments, these increases are considerably overshadowed by dramatic gains in data center output and efficiencies over the last five years,” Emerson notes, adding that “while energy consumption in data centers nearly doubled in the last five years, data center compute output increased fourteen-fold, and data center efficiency increased eight-fold over the same period.”

Emerson arrived at those numbers using a new metric called Compute Units per Second (CUPS), which it devised to quantify the performance gains delivered by more powerful chips and servers. The company, which makes power and cooling equipment for data centers, developed CUPS to provide a “placeholder metric” to highlight data center efficiency gains “in the same way that miles-per-gallon (MPG) provides an easily understood, agreed-upon efficiency measure for cars.” Data center professionals can experiment with CUPS in an online data center efficiency calculator.

Emerson is using CUPS to highlight Energy Logic, its process for reducing energy use in the data center. The CUPS metric and Energy Logic program are outlined in a new white paper, Energy Logic: Calculating and Prioritizing Your Data Center IT Efficiency Actions.

The white paper argues that the greatest efficiency gains are achieved through faster replacement of high-density computing equipment (including power and cooling products). While Emerson clearly makes the case for its own products it also adds its voice to those calling for efficiency metrics that can scale from the IT device to the data center level.

“Ultimately, a universal metric will help data center professionals make significant improvements in energy efficiency while meeting growing performance demands,” said Jack Pouchet, director of energy initiatives for Emerson Network Power.

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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.

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  1. Keith Flinders, Wellington, NZ

    According to two large hardware vendors, data centers world wide now contribute more carbon dioxide emission to the atmosphere through energy use than commercial airlines do through aviation fuel. And still such centers expand, spinning millions of hard drives with little on them other than meaningless garbage. Facebook and the like come to mind.

  2. This article comes across as PR spin. An industry leader such as Emerson might spend it's research and PR dollars better in truly contributing to the reduction of energy usage in Data Centers rather than justifying the ever increasing amount of energy the industry demands... Perhaps a metric for true end to end system efficiencies (from Utility through server output) might better serve the industry. This would require looking at the UPS system and its many inefficient power conversions. That would seem a logical focus for Emerson.

  3. Joe: The "productivity vs. energy usage" spin was mine, and done to provide context on the endless stream of data about data center usage. We've written many stories about data centers' need to be more efficient. Sometimes the rhetoric gets overblown , as I feel was the case with the comparison to the airline industry cited by the first commenter, Keith. He references a real report from Uptime/McKinsey that projected worst-case analyses forward. People in our industry generate these projections to focus attention on the issue, but we wind up with folks like Keith believing that data centers pollute more than the airline industry - which they don't, and wouldn't until 2020 evein in McKinsey's worst case scenario. Pure PR spin would be to say "this data says more efficient UPS systems are the answer." Sometimes they are, just as DC power distribution may be the right answer for some users.