30 September, 2012

The inefficiency of today's data centres


The Week (an excellent (weekly printed) aggregation of the best journalism across the globe) provides this excellent summary of a New York Times article about inefficiencies in data centres - The Cloud Factories - Power, Pollution and the Internet.

Some stats pulled from The Week:
  • 30 billion Watts of electricity used by digital warehouses worldwide, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants
  • 76 billion Kilowatt-hours used by data centers nationwide (ie in US) in 2010, or roughly 2 percent of all electricity used in the United States
  • 6 to 12 Percentage of electricity powering servers that perform actual tasks, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company. "The rest were essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surf in activity that could slow or crash their operations," says the Times.
  • EMC and the International Data Corporation together estimated that more than 1.8 trillion gigabytes of digital information were created globally last year.

These figures are horrifying - but why do they exist?

Simply, because there is a whole culture in the IT sector of having massive redundancy:
“You look at it [this report] and say, ‘How in the world can you run a business like that,’ Mr. Symanski (of the Electric Power Research Institute) said. The answer is often the same, he said: “They don’t get a bonus for saving on the electric bill. They get a bonus for having the data center available 99.999 percent of the time.”

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