Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mega data centers and electric power

As we have seen, there are data centers and Internet exchange points in many cities. These are very large, but they pale in comparison to the data centers being built around the world by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and other large organizations which hope to provide the utility infrastructure for the era of network-based applications.

Consider Google's data center in The Dalles Oregon, which is described in an article on "Information Factories" by George Gilder. The data center at The Dalles is the latest and most advanced of about two dozen Google data centers and is estimated to house at least 450,000 servers.

Google located the data center at The Dalles because electric power was plentiful and cheap. A study published in 2007 estimated that in 2005 servers, cooling and auxiliary infrastructure consumed 1.2% of US power, an amount comparable to that for color televisions. The 2005 electric bill was about $2.7 B in the US and $7.2 B for the world. Network World estimated the 2006 US bill at $4.5 B -- about 1.5% of US electricity for the year -- and expects that to double by 2011. Given these costs, Intel, AMD, SUN and others are working very hard to produce low power electronics and servers, but the number of servers is rising rapidly.

Harper's Magazine took a somewhat critical look at the politics involved in bringing Google to The Dalles.

The Economist has also had an article on the global growth and consolidation of data centers.

For ongoing discussion of power and the environmental impact of this topic, see Bill St.Arnaud's blog Green IT/Broadband and Cyber-Infrastructure.

This article in the New York Times Magazine talks about data center power and other characteristics -- from the point of view of society and organizations.

Google's data center in The Dalles is also discussed in Slashdot and in
The New York Times

Our communication infrastructure, data centers, and personal computers consume a lot of electric power. Do they save power as well?

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