US companies used the equivalent of the output from five 1 000Mw power plants to keep their data centres and associated infrastructure running in 2005 – a staggering total of 5-million kW of energy. 

In a keynote address at the LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit in New York yesterday, Randy Allen, corporate vice-president: server and workstation division at AMD (NYSE: AMD), revealed findings from a study that comprehensively calculated, for the first time, the energy consumed by national and global data centres annually.
As a result of the study’s findings, and to demonstrate its commitment to lead the industry to energy-efficient computing, AMD is challenging stakeholders both within and outside the industry to step-up efforts to increase energy efficiency in order to reduce energy consumption and associated costs.
Supported by a grant from AMD and authored by Dr Jonathan Koomey, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories and a consulting professor at Stanford University, the study calculated the total power used by servers both in the US and around the world.  The study builds on data from analyst firm IDC on the stocks and shipments of servers, as well as measured data and published estimates of the power per unit used by various server models.
The study found that, in 2005, total data centre electricity consumption in the US – including servers, cooling and auxiliary equipment – was approximately 45-billion kWh, resulting in total utility bills amounting to $2,7-billion, with total data centre power and electricity consumption for the world estimated to cost $7,2-billion annually.
The report also examines the growth in electricity demands since the year 2000, concluding that over the last five years server energy use has doubled.
"Though we have long known that data centres worldwide consume a significant amount of energy, AMD believes Dr Koomey’s findings are a wake-up call not just for the IT industry, but also for global business, government and policy leaders,” explains Allen.
"This study demonstrates that unchecked demand for data centre energy use can constrain growth and present real business challenges.  New generations of energy-efficient servers are now able to help provide IT departments with a path to reduce their energy consumption while still achieving the performance they require.”
Allen acknowledges that ongoing work between industry leaders and governmental agencies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE), is helping to identify meaningful steps to reduce IT industry energy consumption.
Citing the study’s findings, Allen challenged these groups to accelerate their efforts and suggested several next steps to help bring accountability and measurement into tracking the industry’s efforts, including:
* Instituting an annual report on energy efficiency in U.S. data centres,  to measure progress and determine new opportunities and challenges;
* Developing a mechanism to enable businesses, large and small, to measure their own data centre efficiency; and
* Increasing alignment between government and vendor-neutral industry groups to foster the development of energy-efficient data centres for the future.