By the numbers: down under's datacentre dilemma

Summary:The Australian datacentre industry contends with some of the highest power costs in the world.

The Australian datacentre industry contends with some of the highest power costs in the world, despite our nation's hefty supplies of fossil fuels. The need to reduce these costs, together with an increase in the number of international players looking for green suppliers, means that datacentre owners need to look to alternative energy sources, and fast.

Datacentres are growing in size and number in Australia. Global Switch in Sydney, already the largest datacentre in the southern hemisphere, will almost double in size when an extra 34,000 square metres come on-stream next year. Meanwhile, new, smaller providers are also popping up, such as Bevan Slattery's 2900-square-metre Next DC operation in Brisbane.

Powering these datacentres comes at a cost: Australia has some of the highest power costs in the world. The consumer price for electricity here is 26 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to a report from the Energy Users Association of Australia. Compare that to the 11 or 12 cents paid across most of the US. Assuming that a similar price differential exists for industrial supplies, that's a big concern, given the power used by these operations; Global Switch in Sydney consumes 34MW of power — the equivalent of half a million light bulbs, or more than 100,000 plasma TVs.

(Credit: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet Australia)

The debate over the anticipated impact of the carbon tax rages on, but everyone agrees that prices will go higher, partially because of the tax, but largely through the infrastructure investment needed to meet our rising power needs. This surely means that if we are to become competitive in the world's digital economy, then this is the time for Australia to turn its technological eye towards finding a viable source of alternative energy, particularly as major players like Microsoft are already launching sites overseas powered entirely by green energy.

Topics: Government : AU

About

Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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