Energy costs are one of the biggest expenses in managing a data centre, so IT pros are understandably focused on trying to reduce them. But don't let that ongoing hassle leave you with the impression that data centres themselves are a really big consumer of energy in global terms.
At the opening keynote for Data Center World 2014 in Las Vegas, Scott Noteboom, CEO and founder of Litbit, noted that by his calculations, data centres were responsible for less than 2 per cent (roughly one-eightieth) of total global power consumption. Total annual global consumption of power by data centres was around 46GW in 2013, Noteboom said.
While that's not a small amount, it only averages out at 7 watts per person. "As a tech user, I've spent a lot of my career trying to fix wasted electricity challenges," said Noteboom, who worked in senior data centre strategy roles for Yahoo! and Apple. "But is what the Internet gives the world worth 1.5 per cent of total energy use? I think it's totally awesome."
That consumption figure is likely to increase, given that only 39 per cent of the world is online, and internet activity is by far the biggest driver of data centre usage. Noteboom suggested that long planning cycles and risk aversion meant many data centre managers wouldn't implement readily-available power-reduction solutions.
"Aggressive change presents risks and risks present chaos," he said. "Data centre innovation is restricted because of 15-year planning cycles." Shifting to the cloud might thus have a doubly beneficial effect: reducing power consumption overall while also shrinking individual data centre bills.