U.S. Data Centers: Lowest Risk, Highest Energy-Consuming Facilities

28 Aug 2014 by Datacenters.com Technology

"There's no doubt that the U.S. is a popular country for data center locations. One region in Virginia has even earned its own moniker - Data Center Alley - due to the high concentration of computing facilities in the city of Ashburn. While the country's ever-expanding technology industry alongside its vast service client base are major perks, a study shows that America also provides one of the lowest risk levels in the world.

Safest Data Center Location
According to the most recent Data Center Risk Index report from Cushman & Wakefield, Source8 and hurleypalmerflatt, the United States provides a number of advantages for data center operators.

""In the U.S., factors such as robust Internet bandwidth capacity and connectivity and stable power costs contributor to its top ranking,"" noted Jeff West, Cushman & Wakefield's director of data center research in the Americas.

However, the country also earned first place due to its low risk of events that could interrupt computing activities, providing the safest location for data center facilities in the world. Through an evaluation of the top 30 global data center markets, the U.S. emerged as the location having the ""lowest risk likely to [affect] the operation of data center facilities,"" Data Center Knowledge reported.

In addition, the U.S. data center construction market is also one of the strongest across the globe, as demands for computing facilities to address client needs continue to rise.

""The U.S. continues to be, by far, the largest and best served country in terms of ICT infrastructure in general and connectivity in particular,"" Cushman & Wakefield stated.

Consuming Too Much Power?
Although the U.S. was recognized for its low risk benefits for data center locations, another report shows that American facilities may be consuming much more power than they need to, according to Computerworld.

Today, data centers in the U.S. have the capacity to deliver up to 500 megawatts of power load. This requires the support of 34 power plants to keep these operations up and running, Computerworld contributor Patrick Thibodeau wrote. According to current usage patterns, however, data center power usage will only increase with time, calling for 17 additional power plants to be built in the U.S. by 2020.

Overall, U.S. data centers consumed 91 billion kilowatt-hours of energy last year. This figure is poised to increase by 53 percent over the next six years, reaching 139 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020.

However, a new report from the National Resources Defense Council stated that this level of energy utilization pollution could be avoided. According to Thibodeau, there are several issues that are causing American data centers to consume more energy than they need, including comatose or ghost servers that draw power but aren't operating any workloads as well as a lack of virtualization. The NRDC report found that these ghost servers are only functioning at up to 18 percent of their capacity. All told, as many as 30 percent of all servers in U.S. data centers could be considered comatose.

""The report argues that an improvement in energy efficiency practices by data centers could cut energy waste by at least 40 percent,"" Thibodeau wrote.

The report noted that for the most part, large cloud providers demonstrate ""numerous shining examples of ultra-efficient data centers,"" and these ""could lead to the perception that the problem [of energy consumption] is largely solved."" While the efforts of companies like Apple, Facebook and Google shouldn't be belittled, it is the smaller, enterprise and government data centers that are the issue. Therefore, it is these smaller groups that should be working toward more sustainable processes.

Tips For Reduced Data Center Energy Consumption
There are a number of strategies data center organizations can leverage to reduce the level of electricity their facilities consume. One such technique is to optimize equipment workloads through the use of capacity management tools, suggested a Schneider Electric e'‹-book. Such systems can highlight hardware items that are not being efficiently utilized, allowing operators to shift workloads to increase the capacity of each server.

Furthermore, when this capacity management strategy is coupled with virtualization, companies can get rid of the comatose servers lurking in their data centers.

""By maximizing the capacity of your equipment, you avoid purchasing unnecessary equipment and drive down energy costs by running what you have efficiently,"" the e'‹-book stated."


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