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August 2, 2011

Data Centers Consuming Less Power than Predicted

Nicole Hemsoth

Jonathan G. Koomey, a consulting professor in the civil and environmental engineering department at Stanford University recent released a report that examined the data center power consumption between 2005 and 2010. His findings contradict several earlier reports, including one from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that predicted a doubling in data center energy usage during the same five-year period.

Koomey contends that data center power use is not growing at exponential rates as predicted, but rather that it is slowing due to the rise of server virtualization technologies, lowered demand for computing due to the financial crisis of 2008 and new, more power-efficient devices and data centers.

In a special report prepared for the New York Times, Koomey claimed that “electricity used by data centers worldwide grew significantly, but it was an increase of only about 56 percent from 2005 to 2010. In the United States, power consumption increased by 36 percent.”

Conversely, the 2007 EPA report estimated that national energy consumption related to servers and data centers would nearly double from 2005 to 2010 to roughly 100 billion kilowatt hours of energy at an annual cost of $7.4 billion. It  also predicted that data center demand for power in the United States would rise by 2011 to 12 gigawatts of power, or the output of 25 major power plants, from 7 gigawatts, or about 15 power plants.

As the New York Times reported, “Industry consultants and executives agreed with Mr. Koomey’s new analysis, but they also indicated that the slower growth might be temporary.”

In addition to reviewing energy consumption by servers and data centers, the report also considers the role of some of the cloud and data center giants, including Google. Koomey was able to obtain specific information about Google’s data centers (no easy task given the company’s secrecy about its server farms)–enough for him to contend that Google gets top marks for its efficiency.

Full story at New York Times

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