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2012 Trend: Energy Efficiency

by Hu Yoshida on Dec 5, 2011

In 2012, power, cooling and carbon footprints will become even more critical as energy demand increases and countries begin to impose carbon taxes. IT will be asked to shoulder their share of the energy burden.

Last week the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention, in conjunction with the 7th meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, met in Durban, South Africa to get commitments from 37 industrial countries for further reductions in carbon emissions.  An assessment of the state of CO2 emissions, which was prepared for this conference by the International Energy Agency can be downloaded here: http://www.iea.org/co2highlights/co2highlights.pdf

This report shows that in 2009, 41% of CO2—the majority—was generated by electricity and heating from carbon fuels. With the recent disasters which have shut down many nuclear energy plants, there will be more dependence on carbon fuels, which will drive up the cost of electricity and the emission of CO2.

Despite the downturn in the economy, Australia recently passed a carbon tax. Other countries and states, like the European Union, California, India and China are or will be imposing similar taxes or restrictions. In the near future, data centers can expect to get a carbon tax bill with their increasing electricity bill.

Data Centers need to be investing now to reduce their energy costs. The good news is that there are technologies helping to dramatically reduce energy costs.

In August 2007, the EPA’s Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency was released. This report showed that the energy use of the nations’ servers and data centers in 2006 more than doubled the electricity consumed for that purpose than in 2000.  In 2006, data centers and servers consumed about 61 billion kWh (1.5 percent of total U.S. energy consumption) for a total of $4.5 billion.

Annual Energy Use by Server Type 2000-2006

Source: U.S. EPA Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency
Source: U.S. EPA Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency

At this rate, energy consumption was expected to double by 2012. Fortunately, that growth rate was moderated significantly in a new study done by Stanford professor Jonathan Koomey, and reported in The New York Times, which showed that data center power consumption increased by only 36% from 2005 to 2010—rather than the 100% predicted in 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/01/technology/data-centers-using-less-power-than-forecast-report-says.html?_r=1

The two main reasons for this moderation were the economy, and the adoption of server virtualization, which greatly reduced the power consumption of volume servers. Virtualization of servers enabled one server with new multicore processors to replace 10 or more standalone servers. This reduction in servers also helped to reduce site infrastructure costs.

Servers were the biggest factor in data center power consumption, but what about storage? In the chart above, you can see that the power consumption of storage nearly tripled from 2000 to 2006. Server virtualization does not do anything for storage; a server, whether it is physical or virtual, will require the same amount of storage. In fact, it might require more storage as applications tend to proliferate when servers are virtual and essentially free after the initial cost of the physical server. Unfortunately, The New York Times report does not break down the power consumption between storage and servers, but I expect that storage power consumption continues to explode at the previous pace, and will soon become the dominant power consumer in the Data Center if it is not brought under control.

Fortunately, there are some recent improvements in storage and data management which can make storage sustainable. On the physical side, it is the introduction of 2.5 inch disks which consume half the power of 3.5 inch disks which have been the standard until recently. Secondly, some vendors like HDS have gone to denser packaging of disk modules, which reduce floor space and cooling requirements, and replacement of batteries with solid state disks to protect volatile cache memory.

Storage virtualization can reduce the need for storage capacity and related power and cooling, as well as automate the tiering of less active data to larger capacity disks, thin provision over-allocated volumes, and consolidate silos of external storage into a common pool of storage resources. De-duplication also helps to reduce the need for disk capacity. All these improvements may make about a 40% to 60% improvement in power consumption for storage.

Another approach that may make an even greater improvement in the reduction of storage power consumption is the virtualization of data, which I covered in a previous post. Gartner and other analyst tell us that we make 10 to 20 copies of our data for backup, data analysis, development and test, data sharing, etc. If we virtualize the data in a content platform and mirror it in another content platform, we eliminate the need for copies and backup. Just like server virtualization enables multiple operating systems to run on one physical server, data virtualization enables multiple applications to run on one physical content platform or one copy of the data.

In 2012, we will see a focus on reducing power consumption for storage on the scale that we have seen for servers. We will see more focus on smaller form factor disks, storage virtualization, and data virtualization in order to reduce the power bill and carbon tax for data centers.

For Hu’s other 2012 trends, visit this bit.ly bundle: http://bitly.com/vXGP2T

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Comments (4 )

Hu Yoshida on 05 Dec 2011 at 10:44 pm

The New York Times reported today that according to the Global Carbon Project, global emission of carbon in 2010 recorded the largest absolute jump in any year since the industrial revolution. After a 1.4% decline in 2009 due to the recession, it jumped 5.9% in 2010. This is an increasing trend which scientists fear will cause severe climate changes in the near future. This will need to be another consideration in our disaster planning.

George Pepper on 06 Dec 2011 at 4:28 am

Very interesting,I think as a large part of our lives is now in the ‘cloud’, there is definitely progress needed in bringing down the impact it has on our energy consumption. It is also an area that I believe not many people are aware of.

Hu Yoshida on 06 Dec 2011 at 2:09 pm

Thanks George, while I am focussed on power consumption in the data center we have to remember that data centers only consume 2% of the total. The rest of that is in our homes, businesses, and leisure activities. At Hitachi we not only strive to produce energy efficient products, we also ensure that we reduce power and material waste that is consumed in the supply chain, manufacturing plants, distribution, packaging, maintenance, and end of life of a product.

Hu Yoshida on 13 Dec 2011 at 1:00 pm

The December 13 USA today headlines the rise in Energy costs in the US. The average cost per household rose 26.8% in the last 5 years to $1419 as of 2010. This was during a depression which should have reduced energy consumption during 2008 and 2009. There is no doubt that energy costs are rising

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