Data center figures point to more power politics by Peter Judge
Good research doesn’t always turn up surprises. This week sees the release of DCD Intelligence’s annual census of the data center industry. It’s an impressive piece of work that mostly tells us stuff we would have expected - but also confirms things that some people would maybe not like to hear. .
The global data center market grew at 22 percent this year, and is expected to grow at 14 percent till next year. There’s $105 billion being spent this year on data centers. The downside - not a surprise really, so not exactly bad news - is that, despite efforts at efficiency, the power demands are soaring.
Worldwide the power demands of data centers went up by 63.3 percent this year, to a total of 38GW. And next year, the power used is expected to go up again by 17 percent.
The growth in investment and power varies in different parts of the data center. The amount of money spent on cooling and UPS stuff is growing faster than the servers - which I guess is because servers and IT equipment continue to improve rapidly in value thanks to Moore’s law, while electromechanical stuff doesn’t.
DCD Intelligence spoke to about 5000 people round the world, so the figures include a lot of different countries, and DCD Intelligence managing director Nicola Hayes says there’s massive regional variation. Developing countries are sometimes able to leapfrog onto newer technologies, but often are still investing in older more inefficient kit.
Meanwhile, the US and Europe are often upgrading existing sites. In the UK, the amount of floor space and the number of racks isn’t changing much, but the amount of power used by data centres is increasing rapidly. Owners have to make more efficient use of their space. so they stick more equipment into the racks.
Overall, the UK’s data centers use aroung 2GW which - to my surprise - means the UK has around 5 percent of the world’s data centers, measured in terms of power, I know Britain is significant on the world stage for data centers, but that is a big chunk for a smallish country.
This strength in data centers may be a hot potato for the government. Like finance, data centers have benefits for the economy, but can move elsewhere very easily, so they can exert political force. There will be lots of pressure to find a tax regime and green legislation that encourages data centers, but also encourages them to operate more efficiently.
Penalising inefficient data centers, without making them go elsewhere., in other words.
The issue will be more pointed because we are facing a power crisis where everyone will have to pay more in order to rebuild needed generation capacity, whether it is nuclear, wind or wave power.
The good thing about figures is that they can be acted on. There’s a data center lobby against green taxes, and a government that may be applying them. At least with the numbers to hand, there is a good basis for argument.