While the volume of calculation performed in modern data centers increased by 5.5 between 2010 and 2018, their energy consumption only increased by 6% in the same period. Now, in 2018, if these data centers consumed 205 terawatt hours of electricity, this represents 1% of world consumption of electric energy, the same proportion as that of 2010. All of this comes down to an efficiency gain data centers, thanks to improved energy performance and migration to cloud computing. This is the substance of the results of a study by five researchers from Northwestern University, UC Santa Barbara and the US Department of Energy.

This study therefore contradicts certain prejudices and beliefs that data centers leave a carbon footprint equivalent to that of the airline industry. In fact, this huge infrastructure of digital technology has long been singled out for being seen as weighing too heavily on the global electricity system.

Tom Bawden, the author of an article published by The Independent in the United Kingdom in 2016, predicted that the energy consumption of data centers should double every four years, which would lead to triple the global share of the electrical energy consumption of these centers in just a decade: more precisely, it has been estimated that this consumption constitutes 3% of the world’s energy supply in 2020, which would be equivalent to 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions Greenhouse.

According to one of the researchers who conducted the 2020 study, Jonathan Koomey, the simple extrapolation of data leading to the use of projections of future growth in data center energy consumption has a significant bias which then has skewed the prediction: this approach does not take into account energy efficiency gains. It should not be denied that these devices, although consuming more energy than they were almost a decade ago, do a lot more calculation now for each watt hour used.

Indeed, modern data center infrastructure systems, especially for cooling and power, are much more efficient than before. That said, the reduction in energy consumed as a result is sufficient to compensate for the increase in total energy consumption of these computing devices. This particularly concerns cloud data centers which currently host 89% of compute instances, whereas in 2010, 79% of compute instances worldwide were located in traditional data centers.

Currently there is a large migration to new installations made by cloud service providers, such as Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure. It turns out that commercially exploited cloud data centers are now much more optimized for energy performance than data centers operated by individual companies.

Source : Sciencemag

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