telecom consulting service providersThe New York Times ran a feature article titled Power, Pollution and the Internet. The article detailed the amount of power used and the energy wasted by data centers.  Data centers provide data storage and provide cloud-based services and offer colocations for business phone and internet service providers.

Here are some of the interesting highlights from the article: 

  • Data centers, worldwide, use 30 billion watts of electricity, which is equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants.  Google and Facebook utilized reengineered software and cooling systems to reduce wasted power but they still consume 300 and 60 million watts respectively.
  • It’s estimated that data centers waste over 90% of the power they take off the grid.
  • On average, data centers only require 6 to 12 percent of the total power used to perform computations.  The remainder of energy is used to keep servers idling and ready in case there is a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations.
  • It’s estimated that the amount of energy wasted by data centers is as much as 30 times the amount of electricity actually required to carry out the basic purpose of a data center.
  • At least a dozen major data centers have been cited for violations of air quality regulations in Virginia and Illinois alone.  Amazon was cited with more than 24 violations over a three-year period in Virginia.
  • No single government agency has the authority to track the data center industry.  In fact, the Federal Government was unable to determine how much energy its own data centers consumed.
  • 1.8 trillion gigabytes of digital information was stored in 2011.  (A gigabyte is a billion bytes.  One letter or character is one byte.)  Two thirds of the information stored was created by ordinary consumers.
  • In 2010, data centers used 76 billion kilowatt hours nationwide or 2 percent of all the electricity used in the country.  The paper industry, during that same span of time, used 67 billion kilowatt hours.

Most of the power waste of data centers is blamed on the fact that data center managers and company IT representatives are not measured on their ability to conserve but the amount of uptime they produce.  Experts agree that in an effort to produce five-nine uptimes (99.999%) too much energy is being wasted.

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