Firms urged to cut IT power consumption

IT managers could soon be spending up to half their budget on electricity unless they curb energy-hungry technologies, says Gartner

Analyst group Gartner has warned businesses to conserve power or face rapidly rising IT expenditure.

UK firms' electricity usage is rocketing due to the proliferation of computing devices and an increasing number of high-density data centres.

The hit caused by high-power data-centre equipment is twofold — not only does it consume more power to run, but also more power to cool.

The dramatic rise in power requirements could cause a headache for many IT departments as costs spiral, potentially by a factor of five over the next few years, Gartner said.

"Today, energy costs typically form less than 10 percent of an overall IT budget," noted Rakesh Kumar, research vice president at Gartner. "But this could rise to more than 50 percent in the next few years. Most CIOs would struggle to justify that situation to company board members."

Kumar pointed the finger firmly at the proliferation of energy-sapping data-centre infrastructures. "The power needed for a rack of high-density server blades can be between 10 and 15 times higher than the power needed for a traditional server environment," he said. "At the same time, a similar amount of additional power will be needed to remove the huge quantity of heat generated by these new machines."

Gartner added in a statement that storage devices and networking controllers were also to blame.

But IT equipment maker Fujitsu Siemens is confident that costs could be controlled.

"There are better management facilities now, so administrators can administer the power on everyone's PCs. But you also need to look at the age of a machine and you need to turn PCs off at night," said company spokesman Mike Tinsley, adding that using standby still uses about 70 percent of maximum power.

Tinsley added that even the chipset could affect power usage: Fujitsu's AMD-based Esprimo desktop PC uses considerably less power than the Intel-based equivalent.

But when asked how IT managers might control spiralling power consumption in the data centre, Tinsley could offer few suggestions.

"Power is rocketing," Tinsley said. "It is a tricky one for the data centre."

The UK wastes £123m per year by failing to shut down unused PCs, Fujitsu has calculated.

As well as spiralling costs for the businesses concerned, environmentalists are concerned about the effect of rising power consumption on carbon emissions.

The European Union last year implemented legislation in a bid to create efficiency standards for all electrical equipment.