Datacentre energy crisis looms

A crisis is looming in the UK's datacentres around the most fundamental of requirements, the need for power, according to a study published by BroadGroup consultants.According to the study, the average energy costs of running a corporate UK datacentre is currently about 5.

A crisis is looming in the UK's datacentres around the most fundamental of requirements, the need for power, according to a study published by BroadGroup consultants.

According to the study, the average energy costs of running a corporate UK datacentre is currently about 5.3m pounds a year. This figure is set to double to 11m pounds over the next five years.

"The IT industry has been in denial about the cost of energy," said the report's author, Keith Breed, research director at the BroadGroup.

"Look at chips, they get faster and more powerful all the time and use more and more power."

Breed warned that the industry is now at a crossroads, especially in the UK.

"Most companies have long-term contracts for energy and so they have not had to face up to the costs. As those contracts come up for renewal, they can find themselves faced with up to a 50 percent increase."

According to Breed, energy costs now account for near 30 percent of a datacentre's operating costs.

A big part of the problem is the need to cool data centres and IT departments.

"Datacentres are hitting a technological ceiling where cooling technologies could become the prohibitive factor," said Breed.

But Breed is optimistic that the IT industry can find ways to help with this area in particular.

"Companies like IBM and HP are doing some really innovative things with cooling technology," he said.

Other innovative ways of making IT more environmentally friendly include include ultra-thin, high-density server designs, hydrogen fuel-cells as alternative "green" power sources, virtualisation technologies that spread the use of computing resources to minimise heat, and nanofluid-cooling systems for the IT estate.

The mainframe is one part of the wider problem facing data centre managers, as they are bulky and demand plenty of cooling and air-conditioning. Ealier this week, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and Intel set out a detailed program to help customers reduce costs by migrating applications from mainframes to servers.

But it is the overall increases in processor power that is central to the cooling problems, according to the BroadGroup report. They estimate that maintaining the datacentre and its cooling environment accounts for 70 percent of the total electricity output.

Breed remains optimistic. "The challenges are immense but the research shows the industry has the will and conviction to tackle the eco-issues head-on," he said.

Colin Barker reported for ZDNet UK from London

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