Data centers aren’t sucking as much electricity as predicted

Server room (NeoSpire photo)

Massive data centers — many of which dot the Columbia River basin in Washington and Oregon — have historically been described as electricity-sucking power hogs.  But a new report from a Stanford University professor shows that electricity used to power data centers actually slowed significantly between 2005 and 2010.

“This slowing was the result of the 2008-9 economic crisis, the increased prevalence of virtualization in data centers, and the industry’s efforts to improve efficiency of these facilities since 2005,” writes Stanford’s Jonathan Koomey, who prepared the report on behalf of The New York Times.

That may seem counterintuitive — given that more consumers and businesses are shifting email, documents, photos and videos to the cloud. It also comes amid the rise of services such as Hulu, Facebook, Google and others.

But, even so, Koomey found that total electricity use by data centers in 2010 stood at about 1.3 percent of worldwide totals. (Two percent in the U.S.)  That was significantly lower than had been predicted in the EPA’s 2007 report to Congress on data centers.

Koomey also offered some interesting analysis on Google’s electricity use, estimating that the search giant’s data centers account for 0.01 percent of worldwide electricity use.

“While Google is a high profile user of computer servers, less than 1% of electricity used by data centers worldwide was attributable to that company’s data center operations,” Koomey wrote.

Full report here and more analysis from The New York Times here.

Previously on GeekWire: Facebook to expand data center operations in central Oregon

 

  • Guest

    Congratulations to Google on realizing these significant improvements. Instead of “the cloud,” perhaps we should start calling it “the green cloud”!