Innovations in the data center industry are proving to be worth their investment. According to recent research, the energy drain many had been expecting from data centers has been largely averted because of energy-saving measures, including a shift to cloud computing.
Although the demand for data centers has climbed significantly in the past few years, energy consumption has leveled off, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy in collaboration with researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University and Northwestern University.
The study revealed that data centers in America consumed about 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014 or about nearly 2 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption. From a period ranging from 2010 to 2014, that represents a 4 percent increase in total data center energy consumption. Compare that to 2005 to 2010, when data center energy consumption grew by 24 percent.
Based on the improvements developed by the industry, energy efficiency improvements will net a saving of 620 billion kWh between 2010 and 2020, according to the study.
Moreover, best practices among America’s 3 million data centers as well as a shift to cloud computing could cut data center energy use by 45 percent by 2020.
The innovations that are considered the most energy-efficient measures include the following:
Cooling systems. By focusing on innovative ways to provide air conditioning, companies are finding ways to reduce inefficiencies. These alternatives include economizers, hot aisle isolation and liquid cooling. According to the NRDC, about 30 percent of a small business’ electricity bill can be traced to powering and cooling data center servers.
Addressing idle systems. By dealing with servers that are seldom used or idle, companies are finding more ways to address energy inefficiencies. By putting them on a lower-power sleep mode or consolidating servers through virtualization, companies are able to find energy savings.
Shift to the cloud. Experts point to the growth of cloud computing as one of the most significant factors in increased energy efficiency. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Labs researcher Dale Sartor, “The cloud is certainly one of the drivers to more energy efficiency. Data centers used to be considered a fixed cost, but in a cloud environment, whoever is lowest cost provider is going to win. Energy is one of the easier things to optimize.”