Data Center Energy Needs

Posted on June 14, 2008  Comments (4)

It’s Too Darn Hot

The tech industry is facing an energy crisis. The cost of power consumption by data centers doubled between 2000 and 2006, to $4.5 billion, and could double again by 2011, according to the U.S. government. With energy prices spiking, the challenge of powering and cooling these SUVs of the tech world has become a major issue for corporations and utilities.

The modern data center is like a vast refrigerator with hundreds or thousands of ovens blazing away inside. Six-foot-tall metal racks stacked with pizza box-size computers, storage devices, and network-routing machines are lined up in rows. Chilled air blows through the equipment from vents in the floors of “cold aisles.” Hot air blows out of the back ends into “hot aisles” and is drawn off and vented out of the building. Inside the centers, there’s a dull roar as large quantities of air shoot through ducts, vents, and computers.

So intense is the competition among tech companies to lower their costs of processing data that some treat information about their energy use like state secrets.

The $4.5 billion spent in the U.S. in 2006 is the equivalent of the electric bills for 5.8 million U.S. households.

When you realize the huge cooling needs (in addition to the need for electricity to run the computers) you can see the huge advantage of a cold climate where you can take advantage of cool air for cooling.

Related: Geothermal Power in AlaskaCost of Powering Your PCGoogle Investing Huge Sums in Renewable EnergyHigh-efficiency computer power supplies

4 Responses to “Data Center Energy Needs”

  1. Matt
    June 14th, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

    This is pretty amazing. Are you predicting that major data centers and server rooms will start migrating to colder climates? It makes me wonder if a company like Amazon, who I envision has many many racks and a huge operation could feasibly move this part of their operation to, say, Canada. I don’t know how many they employ to manage their servers but I wouldn’t think it to be too many.

    And, to your knowledge, does anyone use the waste heat given off by massive rows of racks to help in heating their other habitable spaces in winter? As we’re heading toward a greener planet, it seems like someone out there might be thinking of this.

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