Don't accept defeat against data center power shortages

Despite high levels of data center inefficiency, large operators are choosing wasteful expansion over sustainability

The ongoing power crisis is taking its toll on large data center operators. According to a recent survey by Campos Research, most of these operators are expanding their facilities or build new ones -- and they're citing a lack of available power as the No. 1 cause. At the same time, these organizations report that their data centers are operating at an appallingly high average PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) ratio of 2.9.

Interestingly, the survey also hints at a growing interest among organizations in containerized data centers, which are essentially modular data centers in a box that are relatively quick and easy to install for added capacity. Although this route may be more efficient and sustainable than building entirely new facilities from scratch, too many companies are overlooking opportunities to embrace smart, sustainable practices to save money and resources and, in the process, make their existing data centers more efficient.

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Failing PUE grade
If you're not familiar with PUE, it's a widely used ratio to assess how much power in a data center is going toward doing actual work by power IT equipment versus how much is being used for power, cooling, and other nonproductive duties. A PUE of 1.0 means that 100 percent of a facility's energy is being used to power IT equipment. A PUE score of 2.0 means that 50 percent of the data center's energy is fueling the IT gear.

According to the Uptime Institute, the industry average is 2.5; others pin it at around 2.1. Meanwhile, the EPA's oft-cited report to Congress on data center efficiency predicted that data centers could achieve a PUE of 1.7 or lower through improved operations, 1.3 employing best practices, or 1.2 by adopting state-of-the-art technologies.

The data center operators participating in the Campos study, which was commissioned by Digital Realty Trust, represent organizations with at least 5,000 employees or an annual revenue of $1.0 billion, report an average PUE of 2.9. That means, on average, for each watt that companies are purchasing to power their data centers, only around 33 percent is going toward productive work.

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