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Data Center Costs as a Driving Force for Energy Efficiency: Part 1:

The key challenge of directional innovations is the question of their energy efficiency, since IoT, SmartHome, etc. do not only have a demand for new computing capacities, but also a new demand for energy.

Industry Perspectives

October 17, 2017

4 Min Read
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Dr. Jens Struckmeier is a Founder and CTO of Cloud & Heat Technologies GmbH.

Digitalization in economy and society is rapidly increasing the demand for computing power. As more data centers and server cities are necessary, operators are also challenged to cope with increased energy costs. Part 1 of this two-part series,addresses the need to offset rising costs of power consumption with a green perspective for the efficient data centers of tomorrow.

In recent years, the number of enterprises using cloud computing has steadily increased. More and more devices and sensors are connected to the internet, with their control, measurement and tuning processes digitally coordinated. According to an estimate by Gartner, about 4.9 billion connected devices exist today. Cisco experts  predict 50 billion connected devices by 2020, suggesting that the number will quadruple within the next few years. Consumers will especially use these networked devices in the "smart home" segment. For example, an empty refrigerator can automatically create a new shopping list or request the re-ordering of popular food directly in the store. Networked devices also play an increasingly important role in industry and business in order to better plan production and manufacturing processes, as well as to make them more cost- and time-efficient.

The increasing digitalization of the economy and society leads to a very high demand for computing and storage capacities. The current requirements for data protection and security demand further computing power. New technologies such as Industry 4.0, Machine Learning or Augmented Reality do not only mark the next stage of technologized life, but represent a growing need for a reliable and efficient IT infrastructure. Germany has established itself as the largest data center market in Europe and the third largest in the world, thanks to the expansion and construction of data centers. Many large data centers are concentrated mainly in the Frankfurt am Main area. One of them is e-shelter, the fifth largest data center in the world with nearly 700,00 square feet of total space. Globally, most of the large data centers are found within the U.S., in states including Illinois, Utah, Nevada, Virginia, and Iowa. 
It is estimated that data centers consume between three and five percent of the world's power. Apparently, bigger is better when it comes to data center operations. Players in the U.S. retail and wholesale markets have acquired rivals which smaller centers have consolidated to remain competitive, according to an article published earlier this year in Data Center Knowledge.

So far, so good: The developments of digitalization will be inspirational to the whole IT industry in the coming decades. The rapid progress of technology and its promise of a more efficient and comfortable world are more tangible than ever before. But not everything that glitters is gold in the end: The key challenge of directional innovations is the question of their energy efficiency, since IoT, SmartHome, etc. do not only have a demand for new computing capacities, but also a new demand for energy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the power consumption for operating and cooling data centers reached 70 billion kWh in the U.S. in 2016. In 2020, the energy demand is expected to increase to 73 billion kWh. In order to reduce high operating costs, as well as CO2 emissions, one of the greatest future challenges is the improvement of energy efficiency in data centers.

The fact is that data center operators, who are already dealing with the measurement and optimization of energy consumption, are saving energy costs. In particular, the cost- and energy-efficient cooling of the servers is in the focus of the operators in order to reduce their immense high operating costs. Saving energy means not only saving money, but also making a significant contribution to climate protection. For this purpose, cooling methods become more mature and adaptive. Besides, not only the improvement of cooling will dominate the evolution of IT hardware. The latter also will withstand ever higher temperatures and produce even less heat.

Another strategy that data center operators are using to become more energy efficient is to look for natural resources to benefit. Google for example is pumping seawater into one of their data centers. At Microsoft, engineers are exploring housing data centers underwater. Technically speaking, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, computer scientists have found that by slashing the common queries or "caches" energy consumption can be greatly reduced.

Due to the rapidly growing demand for computing capacity and thus the steadily increasing energy consumption in data centers, innovative green concepts are needed that reduce overall power consumption in the industry. One possibility to drastically reduce the enormous energy consumption is the consistent use of cutting-edge cooling systems, such as hot water cooling, and the intelligent reuse of data center heat.

In Part 2, I will discuss the question of the appropriate cooling system and how additional savings through intelligent waste heat utilization possible.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.


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