Data Center Power: Good Versus Bad

The amount of power consumed in a modern data center is generally incomprehensible.  One hundred MW (that’s megawatts) of power can operate just one Apple, Google, Yahoo! or Facebook data center or 80,000 average American homes.  In Internap data centers we have customers operating with 10KW of power draw in an 8’x2’x4’ locking, seismically reinforced, steel cabinet.  While that’s just 1/100th of 1MW, it’s also eight homes worth of power in a space barely large enough for two very friendly people to stand.  In the case of our Santa Clara, Seattle, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles and Atlanta facilities, there will be thousands of such racks.  It’s all a bit overwhelming, but it’s not a bad thing.

I won’t claim though that there isn’t a story here− there is.  It’s just not one that speaks about data center power usage as though it’s squandering natural resources.

In 2009, the primary energy use in the United States was 25,150 TWh (that’s a terawatt hour).  One terawatt hour is equal to a sustained power of approximately 114 MW for a period of one year.  Relatively speaking then, any single data center is only a very tiny blip in terms of total energy consumption.  Still, it’s impossible to argue that there aren’t impacts from energy consumption and we should be attentive to those impacts.  To that end, power consumption overall should be differentiated from a good use of power and bad use of power.  From my perspective, as someone in the data center business, providing clean power to servers is a good use of power.  Those servers power applications that impact every aspect of business today and many aspects of our personal lives.  Losing energy to inefficient equipment in the form of heat or light isn’t a good use of power.

Internap does a number of things – many of which are outlined in our green colocation eBook– to make sure that we are being responsible with how we use our resources when we build and operate a facility.  A good use of power is our focus.  And it’s a focus for the Facebooks of the world as well.  Take a look at their Open Compute Project, which touts a solution where more than 90% of all incoming power is used by servers.

If this is a focus for you too, third party verification by groups or programs like LEED, Energy Star and Green Globes, can help assure you that a data center provider is being responsible in managing their consumption of resources.

Check out our Choosing a Green Colocation Provider” infographic for more on the standards and practices of a green facility.