California Energy Crisis Does not Impact Data Centers--Yet : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

California Energy Crisis Does not Impact Data Centers--Yet

The current California energy crisis has rocked the high technology industry in Silicon Valley. Internet data centers (IDCs) are huge consumers of electricity, but the current rolling blackouts have not created a performance issue for the industry. Vendors such as Intira or Exodus have built infrastructures designed to withstand many types of service interruptions including power loss. Their centers are designed with uninterruptible power supply systems that can deliver emergency power for several hours; diesel generators also provide several days of backup power.

The real question is: How much wattage is being consumed by IDCs and how have they contributed to the current crisis? The consumption of energy to run the HVAC systems (especially air conditioning), in addition to running the servers and related hardware, is estimated to be 85 to 100 watts per square foot, which is 20 times larger than commercial space usage. Beyond the total amount of power these IDCs use, there is also the issue of when they use it. Normally, people use power during the day at the office, then use power at night at home. The growing fleet of IDCs are extending the usage of energy by commercial establishments into the evening residential peak--leading to blackouts. Given the large number of data centers located on the West Coast, the total power consumption of IDCs is enough to acerbate the crisis.

If the current crisis continues and worsens, IDCs will likely be under pressure to reduce their huge power consumption. Shifting applications to other data center sites throughout the United States is one alternative. The Yankee Group believes that in the short-term IDCs will employ mirror backups in other states, but long-term changes will be needed. Long-term decisions will center on more energy-efficient servers or moving data centers out of California to states that have not toyed with price deregulation.

-- Martin Thompson (, January 30, 2001

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