Hmm. What is a data center, and why should we be concerned?
A data center is a facility that provides a safe, secure, powered home for computer servers. Generally companies rent space in a data center to house the servers that make their companies run. Data centers house everything from this blog, for example, to the massive Google search index (which is comprised of an estimated 450,000 servers).
Data centers are big dollar, and the level of security is intense. Data centers are a study in how to secure an industrial facility. For the interested, take a tour of The Bunker, an example of how far companies will go to ensure the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of their data.
Powering these facilities is no small matter. Many large-scale facilities are connected to 2 or more separate power grids to ensure a constant supply of power. Most have additional, redundant power generating capacity.
In a study released in February, Jonathan Koomey, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, indicates that the power consumption in the world's data centers will grow by 40% in the next 3 years after doubling in the past five.
Here are some excerpts from an article by Scott Ferguson for eWeek magazine:
The amount of electricity used to power the world's data center servers doubled in a five-year span due mainly to an increase in demand for Internet services, such as music and video downloads, and telephony, according to a new report.This situation is not going to be solved entirely by "conservation." At the same time, we can't simply have these centers subject to "rolling blackouts." Yes, they may run seemingly non-critical sites like YouTube, but they also house medical imaging data stores, and research on new drugs, cures, and vaccines.
If current trends continue, the amount of power to run the world's data center servers could increase by an additional 40 percent by 2010, said Jonathan Koomey, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., and a consulting professor at Stanford University.
Koomey's report, funded by Advanced Micro Devices, the Sunnyvale, Calif., chip maker, is being presented at the at the LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit in New York City on Feb. 15.
Between 2000 and 2005, according to Koomey's research, the average amount of power used to fuel servers within the data center doubled. In the United States, that represented a 14 percent annual growth in electrical use, while worldwide use increased by about 16 percent every year.
In 2005, the electrical bills for U.S. companies totaled $2.7 billion. The cost of electricity for the entire world topped $7 billion. Within the United States, the total cost of powering data center servers represented about 0.6 percent of total electrical use within the country. When the additional costs of cooling and other usage is factored in, that number jumps to 1.2 percent.
"The total power demand in 2005 (including associated infrastructure) is equivalent (in capacity terms) to about five, 1000 MW [megawatt] power plants for the U.S. and 14 such plants for the world," Koomey wrote in the report.
Koomey concludes that a number of factors could change power consumption in the ext several years, including the adoption of more blades in the data center, virtualization technology, and more awareness of the total cost of ownership of data center equipment.
These facilities will continue to demand increased power as our dependence on Internet connected systems grows. We must make sure we are on the path to providing increased supplies of electricity.