U.S. data centers consume 45 billion kWh annually, says AMD

New York (NY) - By now, we have learned that power efficiency has become one of the dominant cost factors impacting the operating of computer systems. A new study, commissioned by AMD, is putting numbers on the power consumption of data centers in the U.S. and around the world.

AMD presented the findings of the study during the LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit in New York today. Following up on the firm's ongoing marketing campaign to highlight the power efficiency of its own processors, corporate vice president revealed findings, from what he said was the first study that provides "credible estimates" of the energy consumed by national and global data centers annually. According to AMD, data centers and their infrastructure swallowed the entire power production of by five 1000 MW power plants in 2005.

The study, which was authored by Jonathan Koomey, Ph.D., staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories and a consulting professor at Stanford University, concluded that total data center electricity consumption in the U.S., including servers, cooling and auxiliary equipment, was approximately 45 billion kWh, resulting in total utility bills of about $2.7 billion - or 1.2% of all U.S. electricity sales. The global power bill caused by data centers is estimated at about $7.2 billion - or 0.8% of global electricity sales. The global 2005 power consumption of data centers is estimated at about 122 billion kWh.

Koomey believes that the power consumption of U.S. data centers roughly doubled between 2000 and 2005. The lion's share of the power consumption is occupied by cooling and auxiliary equipment, which consume about the same power as is needed to run servers. Among servers, the study indicates that the huge number of volume servers (cost: less than $25,000) consumes about ten times the power volume servers consume about eleven times the power of mid-range and high-end servers. However, Koomey noted that his numbers relied on server installation numbers provided by IDC, which may under-represent the number of custom server installations. For example, Google's estimated 450,000 servers or not publicized server installations - such as thousands of Nvidia servers that are used to simulate graphics cards in software - are not included in this study.

Allen said that industry leaders and governmental agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), need to accelerate their efforts to develop "meaningful steps to reduce IT industry energy consumption." As part of this initiative, he suggested the publication of annual reports on energy efficiency in U.S. data centers, the development of a mechanism to enable businesses to measure their own data center efficiency as well as an increasing alignment between government and vendor-neutral industry groups to "foster the development of energy-efficient data centers for the future."