Data centers use less energy than thought: Study

Washington, Feb 28 (PTI) Although the demand for digital information has increased rapidly, massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept their energy use roughly flat over the past decade, according to a study.

The researchers, including those from Northwestern University in the US, said data centers are locations that collect, store, and process digital information.

Their model, described in the journal Science, provides a nuanced view of data center energy use and its drivers, and may enable scientists to make strategic policy recommendations for better managing this energy use in the future.

'While the historical efficiency progress made by data centers is remarkable, our findings do not mean that the IT industry and policymakers can rest on their laurels,' said study co-author Eric Masanet from Northwestern University.

He believes there is enough remaining efficiency potential to last several more years.

'But ever-growing demand for data means that everyone -- including policy makers, data center operators, equipment manufacturers and data consumers -- must intensify efforts to avoid a possible sharp rise in energy use later this decade,' Masanet said.

As the world relies more and more on data-intensive technologies, the energy use of these centers is a growing concern, the scientists said.

'Considering that data centers are energy-intensive enterprises in a rapidly evolving industry, we do need to analyze them rigorously,' said study co-author Arman Shehabi from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

'Less detailed analyses have predicted rapid growth in data center energy use, but without fully considering the historical efficiency progress made by the industry. When we include that missing piece, a different picture of our digital lifestyles emerges,' Shehabi explained.

In the study, the researchers integrated new data from numerous sources, including information on data center equipment stocks, efficiency trends, and market structure.

They said the resulting model enables a detailed analysis of the energy used by data center equipment such as servers, storage devices, and cooling systems.

According to the scientists, the model also facilitates assessment by type of data center, including cloud and hyperscale centers, and by world region.

They said recent efficiency gains made by data centers have likely been far greater than those observed in other major sectors of the global economy.

'Lack of data has hampered our understanding of global data center energy use trends for many years,' said study co-author Jonathan Koomey.

'Such knowledge gaps make business and policy planning incredibly difficult,' Koomey said.

The researchers said addressing these knowledge gaps was a major motivation for their work.

'We wanted to give the data center industry, policy makers and the public a more accurate view of data center energy use,' Masanet said.

'But the reality is that more efforts are needed to better monitor energy use moving forward, which is why we have made our model and datasets publicly available,' he added. PTI VIS VIS VIS