Recession's silver lining: Less data center power consumption

Between 2005 and 2010, electricity consumption by U.S. data centers increased 36 percent rather than doubling as the EPA had predicted.

In the wake of Wall Street selloffs that have brought the phrase "double-dip recession" to mind, a report issued August 1 by Stanford University consulting professor Jonathan G. Koomey, Ph.D. revolves around one silver lining of the world's economic woes since 2008: Between 2005 and 2010 data centers did not consume the amount of electricity that had been predicted in earlier analysis.

In 2007 the Environmental Protection Agency made an oft-referenced report to the United States Congress, in which it predicted that the amount of electricity used by data centers would double between 2005 and 2010, as it had between 2000 and 2005. That report not only gained a lot of attention, it also prompted the establishment of EPA EnergyStar programs for equipment used in data centers and for data center facilities.

Dr. Koomey's report, entitled Growth In Data Center Electricity Use 2005 to 2010, includes an executive summary - the first point of which is that growth in the installed base of data center servers had begun to slow by early 2007 because of virtualization and other factors. The summary then says, "The 2008 financial crisis, the associated economic slowdown, and further improvements in virtualization led to a significant reduction in actual server installed base by 2010 compared to the IDC installed base forecast published in 2007." Later it says electricity used by data centers worldwide increased by about 56 percent in the 2005-2010 period, rather than doubling as it had in the prior five years. In the U.S., electricity use increased by 36 percent rather than doubling.

"Electricity used in U.S. data centers in 2010 was significantly lower than predicted by the EPA's 2007 report to Congress," the executive summary also said, adding, "driven mainly by a lower server installed base than was earlier predicted rather than the efficiency improvements anticipated in the report to Congress."

In that sense, the EPA's red-flag message from 2007 is still applicable. Continued efficiency improvements remain vital.

You can access Dr. Koomey's report here.

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