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Enterprise data centers are devouring power

Two thirds of in-house facilities have a PUE over 2.0, says research

Enteprise data centers, run in-house by large businesses, are throwing away money on uncontrolled cooling and power costs, according to research from IDC. 

In two-thirds of US enterprise data centers, less than half the electric power consumed actually reaches the IT racks, according to a survey of 404 data center managers carried out by IDC. These are facilities where the PUE (power usage effectiveness) is over 2.0, well behind industry best practise. Ten percent of the survey have a PUE of 3.0 or more, or simply don’t know what their PUE is. The well-known PUE measure divides total power consumed by that which is delivered to the IT equipment, so 1.0 would be the ideal. 

Electricity meter power kWh Thinkstock PaulMcArdleUK

Electricity meter power kWh Thinkstock PaulMcArdleUK

Massive inefficiency

“When you get to PUE ratios at 2 and above, you are looking at a massive amount of power going not just to the IT side of the house but also to the facilities side,” said IDC research manager Kelly Quinn, in a recent webcast  called Devouring Power’, reported by eWEEK.  

The survey covered 404 users with at least 100 servers and 1000 square feet (roughly 100 sq m) of data center space, but excluded any cloud firms, colocation companies or other service providers. It found that on average they are spending 24 percent of their budget on power and cooling - an average of $300,000 for each company in the survey, and roughly the same armount as the amount they spend on IT equipment.

If these organisations have an average PUE of 2, and reduced that to the US government’s guideline of 1.5, then their overall power usage would go down by 25 percent, the survey suggests.

The inefficiency of in-house data centers is likely even larger than this, according to recent comments by Amazon, responding to criticism of its energy strategy by Greenpeace.

The IT resources at in-house enterprise data centers are generally not being used with a very high utilization, says Amazon, with perhaps only 20 percent of the IT kit capacity being used, even though all of it is drawing power.

Moving from in-house IT to the cloud would put the in-house services on hardware which has a higher PUE, says the giant cloud provider, but it would also boost efficiency by putting it on better utlitized hardware.

Readers' comments (1)

  • This is not an article up to your usual high standards Peter. Your references to PUE are littered with errors, which makes it somewhat 'naive' and confusing to those less informed about these matters.

    Firstly, PUE should never be referred to as a point-in-time, so one should always reference it as an annualised figure. Secondly, the comparison of PUEs across any number of facilities, particularly across the industry should be handled with care and the limitations spelt out regarding it's efficacy. Thirdly, a PUE of 1.0 is not "ideal", it is near to impossible, and not worth the chase as one starts hitting the '80-20' rule. Even indirectly putting it out as a goal is to mislead people who can spend little amounts that make a big difference (the 80-20 rule again!). And the industry needs them to be motivated to do so.

    My last point is related to Amazon's comments. What they are stating is pure marketing spin: enterprise facilities can be made far more efficient with very little cost outlaid and considerable ROI should higher cost investment be required (the 'long tail' of Data Centre efficiency improvements). Cloud providers have not yet convinced anyone that they are 'greener' than anyone else - there are so many factors that need to be taken into account that if any organisation is considering this as a major reason for 'vapourising' their services to the cloud, then they should run the numbers very carefully. I have yet to see any cost benefits for using cloud for critical services.

    I appreciate you are mostly quoting from other sources, but this is your article with your name against it and you are very influential. I and others would have expected you to add your own analysis and caveats into the piece to give it some sense and credibility.

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  • Many thanks Steve

    I'll have a look back over this article and take your guidance on board.

    On one small point, I was actually using the word "ideal" in the sense of "perfection" which is of course impossible - I can see it may not read that way, when "ideal" in common use tends to be more like "the best we can manage".


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