The European Data Center Summit 2011 was held yesterday at SihlCity CinCenter in Zurich. Google Senior VP Urs Hoelzle kicked off the event talking about why data center efficiency was important both economically and socially. He went on to point out that the oft quoted number that US data centers represent is 2% of total energy consumption is usually mis-understood. The actual data point is that 2% of the US energy budget is spent on IT of which the vast majority is client side systems. This is unsurprising but a super important clarification. The full breakdown of this data:

· 2% of US power

o Datacenters: 14%

o Telecom: 37%

o Client Device: 50%

The net is that 14% of 2% or 0.28% of the US power budget is consumed in datacenters. This is a far smaller but still a very relevant number. In fact, that is the primary motivator behind the conference: how to get the best practices from industry leaders in datacenter efficiency available more broadly .

To help understand why this is important,

· Of the 0.28% energy consumption by datacenters:

o Small: 41%

o Medium: 31%

o Large: 28%

This later set of statistics predictably shows that the very largest data centers consume 28% of the data center energy budget while small and medium centers consume 72%. High scale datacenter operates have large staffs of experts focused on increasing energy efficiency but small and medium sized centers can’t afford this overhead at their scale. Urs’s point and the motivation behind the conference is we need to get industry best practices available to all data center operations.

The driving goal behind the conference is that extremely efficient datacenter operations are possible using only broadly understood techniques. No magic is required. It is true that the very large operators will continue to enjoy even better efficiency but existing industry best practices can easily get even small operators with limited budgets to within a few points of the same efficiency levels.

Using Power Usage Effectiveness as the measure while the industry leaders are at 1.1 to 1.2 where 1.2 means that every watt delivered to the servers requires 1.2 watts to be deliverd from the utility. Effectively it is a measure of the overhead or efficiency of the datacenter infrastructure. Unfortunately the average remains in the 1.8 to 2.0 range and the worst facilities can be as poor as 3.0.

Summarizing: Datacenters consume 0.28% of the annual US energy budget. 72% of these centers are small and medium sized centers that tend towards the lower efficiency levels.

The Datacenter Efficiency conference focused on making cost effective techniques more broadly understood showing how a PUE of 1.5 is available to all without large teams of experts or huge expense. This is good for the environment and less expensive to operate.


James Hamilton



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