Looking back at 2016 in Green Data Centers
It’s time to examine what’s been happening this year in the field of green data centers. It’s been eventful, as usual. Here are some themes that I see.
1. Power usage is not out of control
For me, the biggest news of the year was the analysis from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories of data center energy use. The headline was that US data centers are not the energy hogs they had been assumed to be.
A previous report had quoted data centers as using around two percent of electricity consumed in the US, and this had been the basis of a lot of scare stories.
It was obvious, just from the combined efforts of kids with smartphones and the NSA, that the amount of data being gathered and consumed was growing off the scale. Therefore, everyone assumed, the amount of energy being burnt by these data centers must be out of control.
Apparently, this wasn’t the case. In a nutshell, data centers in 2010 were not very efficient, and virtualization had improved them, allowing businesses to actually use more of the computing power they had paid for.
2 Green electricity is an issue
During 2016, every single major cloud vendor had announcements about using more renewable energy. This went from Google, which is planning to go 100 percent renewable in 2017, through cloud players like Amazon and Microsoft, to major colocation providers like Equinix, down to Akamai, which has plans to make it to 50 percent by 2020.
There were lessons to be drawn from the detail here.
Firstly, this has become a wise investment, as using renewable energy makes your company more attractive to consumers. The PR benefit of using renewable energy even extends to brands which are not directly seen by consumers, such as Equinix and Akamai.
Secondly, it’s rich centralized players can afford to lead the way. Google, like Apple which went renewable a while back, is sitting on a huge pile of money. And Google also has big centralized data centers, which can be located close to renewable sources. Although of course, virtually all data center renewable power is actually bought in the form of power purchase agreements, offsetting power use in the data center against electricity generated elsewhere.
By contrast, distributed players, which are financially more constrained, such as Akamai, have to make less ambitious, longer-term promises.
3. Green is still a hardware issue
The biggest stories in data center efficiency seemed to be about improved cooling, and more efficient server, switch and rack designs coming from the Open Compute Project, Microsoft and LinkedIn.
Storage power sums will have to be rewritten as flash is taking over large amounts of data center storage. As LBNL’s sums for overall power use found, this could have effects in unexpected directions. Any calculation of the power used in storage will have to consider the effect of cheaper and faster storage on the overall usage patterns.
Networks are undergoing their own transition to SDN, which will have an uncalculated impact on their part of power consumption, as well as affecting demand by allowing more services.
What do we have to look forward to in 2017? Tune in next week!
Peter Judge is editor at DatacenterDynamics
Image from: img.deusm.com