datacentre efficiency

Global census shows datacentre power demand grew 63% in 2012

Archana Venkatraman

Datacentre energy requirements have grown massively in the past 12 months, suggesting that rising energy costs and stricter regulations are not helping to limit datacentre power use and cut carbon emissions.

Between 2011 and 2012, power requirements grew by 63% globally to 38GW (gigawatts), up from 24GW in 2011, the DatacenterDynamics 2012 Global Census on datacentre trends has revealed.

Energy use in datacentres was at 12GW in 2007 and has been on the rise since. In the four years to 2011, it doubled to 24GW, but in the last year alone it increased to 38GW amid data explosion and business expansion. The census estimated a further rise of 17% to 43GW in 2013.

In the UK alone, datacentre power requirement is 2.85GW, of which 650MW (megawatts) is outsourced.

According to the study, there was also an increased average kilowatts (kW) per server rack. Globally, the proportion of high-density racks (those over 10kW per rack, which are more energy-efficient) as a proportion of total racks increased from 15% in 2011 to 18% in 2012. The percentage of medium-density racks (5-10kW per rack) increased by a larger proportion, from 30% to 33%.

Requirements for electrical power generation, distribution, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and cooling equipment in datacentres are also expected to grow as a result of these power increases, the report forecast.

However, concerns about power availability and cost – both of which have been constant topics in the media and datacentre professional groups in recent years – have reduced on a global basis, according to Nicola Hayes, managing director of DatacenterDynamics (DCD) Intelligence.

This is explained in part by the increasing representation of companies in less developed markets where power requirements are smaller and so less constrained than in mature markets, and also by efficiency and other strategies put in place by datacentre companies to mitigate against increased power costs and to overcome availability issues, she said.

The study, which was conducted by DCD along with the British Computer Society, Siemens and Cummins, also showed that the global demand for datacentre “white space” – the area in a datacentre which houses the IT equipment – grew globally by just 8.3% from 24 million square metres to 26 million square metres. But it could see a sharper rise (19.2%) to 31 million square metres in 2013.

However, outsourcing, cloud and virtualisation developments and the use of more efficient design methodologies would keep the power requirements low, the study estimated.

The sectors of the economy that account for the largest proportion of the UK datacentre asset base included IT services, finance, public administration, telecoms and collocation. 

Datacentre monitoring in the UK

The datacentre parameters that are most commonly monitored on a continuous basis are those that protect the IT environment – temperature and humidity – the study found. Over 90% of datacentre owners in the UK monitored these parameters continuously.

Energy consumption is monitored continuously by 80% of datacentre operators. However a lower proportion of government, public sector, health and education datacentres monitor the energy consumption, compared with the industrial/manufacturing, finance and business services which monitor energy consumption.

Carbon emission is the least monitored of all these parameters, although four organisations in five monitor this at least occasionally, the study revealed.

The 2012 Global Census also showed that investment in datacentres has grown globally by 22% to $105bn, up from $86bn in 2011. Investment is projected to increase by a further 14% in 2013.

“Our forecast for 2013 shows a slower rate of growth, but still at a very healthy 14.5% over 2012 levels, with a further $15bn of additional investment,” said Hayes.


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