Survey: Most datacenters will run out of capacity by 2011

Insufficient power remains a key problem, yet most companies lack energy-efficiency strategies

Datacenter operators continue to struggle with a pressing power shortage. In a survey of datacenter operators conducted by Emerson Network Power, nearly 64 percent of all 167 respondents said their facilities would run out of capacity by 2011. Power is the primary factor impacting additional compute capacity for 36 percent of respondents.

One of the contributing problems is that power density per rack is increasing in the datacenter. "Because of the increased deployment of blade servers, switches, and other powerful rack-based equipment, the overall power density of the racks that housed them also increased. The room average per rack for respondents was 8kW, which is up from 6kW reported in a spring 2006 DCUG survey," according to the survey report.

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Also contributing to the increase in density: Companies are "putting virtualized servers in smaller spaces and consolidating multiple remote datacenters into centralized mega-datacenters. This compaction increases power requirements, and more power generates more heat," according to the survey.

Companies do have plans to address the capacity problem: Making capital investments in new infrastructure is one such plan, though it can be a real hardship given the shape of the economy. Forty-seven percent of respondents plan on renovating or expanding their datacenter in the next few years, the survey finds. Another 38 percent plan to build a new datacenter. Thirty percent of respondents plan on consolidating multiple datacenters.

Notably, only around one in four respondents have a documented strategy to reduce energy usage; this despite the fact that global electricity prices increased 56 percent between 2002 and 2006, as well as the fact that insufficient power is impacting datacenter growth.

The reason for this, according to the survey, is that reducing energy usage is proving a far lower priority than maintaining high availability. In other words, it would appear that companies are reluctant to cut machine count for fear of impacting service levels.

The report also cites "the challenges many enterprises are having in trying to measure and manage energy efficiency. At the top of the list is the time and budget available to measure, and the reality that any improvements made are being offset by equipment adds to support growth," the survey report says. "Because datacenters can't benchmark against similar facilities, it's difficult to gauge efficiency improvements when new technologies are introduced."

This places datacenter mangers in the undesirable position of trying to convince senior management of productivity increases although energy consumption remained the same, the survey report says.