Energy Demand Slowed Down Due to Cloud Computing

UK-based IT support company Flair4IT has completed a new piece of research on the energy usage in data centers. They found that, despite increased growth in demand for data centers, energy usage has dropped significantly. They believe this is due, in part, to cloud computing.

Just a decade ago, data centers were using more power than energy supplies could sustain. In fact, between 2005 and 2010, their energy usage soared by 24%. Today, however, with the world shifting to virtualization, improved data center management, and cloud computing, energy demand is finally being reduced.

Flair4IT, a UK based IT support agency, has completed a new study that has shown the decline in energy usage. According to their data, energy usage will continue to rise, but at a much slower rate. In fact, they predict that the rise between 2014 and 2020 will be just 4%. This despite the fact that demand for computing resources will continue to rise significantly.

Flair4IT specifically looked at the total electricity usage by data centers in the US. This included 50 large organizations, 21 midsized ones, and 29 small companies. By looking at these organizations, they were able to calculate total usage, including powering storage, servers, the full supportive IT infrastructure, and networking. They found that, in 2014, it stood at 70 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). This equates to 1.8% of the entire electricity consumption in the US.

Linking this to current trends, it is believed that data centers will continue to use electricity but at a slower rate. By 2020, the Flair4IT research showed that it should be 73 billion kWh. This means that, over the next four years, it will not really grow at all. A representative from Flair4IT said: “Data energy centers will always use energy in order to run. However, while the sector itself has continued to grow exponentially, their energy consumption has slowed down at a very fast rate. Interestingly, people and organizations continue to have an increased demand for the products and services offered by data centers, and this means that they have become a lot more efficient. This needs to be applauded, as we should all reduce our energy consumption if the planet is to continue to be sustainable.”

The report showed that the greatest growth in efficiency was in physical servers. Between 2000 and 2005, there was a yearly 15% increase in server shipments. This meant that the total amount of servers stored in data centers nearly doubled in amount. Between 2005 and 2010, the increase in annual shipments did drop by 5%, but that was linked clearly to the global recession. Today, growth is back at a steady 3%, and it is believed that this percentage will remain stable until 2020.

The reason why growth rate in server shipments is dropping is because they are becoming more efficient, have improved utilization due to virtualization, and because people now use cloud computing. Workloads in data centers that are known as ‘hyperscale’ are being more concentrated. Hyperscale centers have a size of at least 400,000 square feet.

It is believed that energy usage may decline further if people shift more work to hyperscale centers, and if they continue to focus on best practice.

The Flair4IT representative added:

I am really optimistic that energy usage will drop down even more rapidly than we have predicted. As more and more IT users are making the transition to public clouds, which are held in efficient buildings, and as they consolidate and use elastic scaling, each application will use less energy. And since people are also continuing to increase their usage of mobile devices, which are much more efficient than desktops, even more energy will be conserved.”

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