WHAT DO DATA CENTRES DO FOR US?
Certainly here in Britain we are totally dependent on data centres. In fact modern “life” as we know it would cease if we were to switch them all off. Quite literally everything and anything you can think of will have a level of dependency, so here’s a few to get you started; all mobile technology, phones and tablets etc, all forms of electronic payments for your groceries, your wages, your direct debits, mortgage, rent, council tax etc, etc. All centralised transport systems, the Underground, air travel and trains. Your utilities, water, gas, broadband, etc. THE INTERNET and all that is does for us, such as banking, eBay, amazon, Facebook, Linkedin, Wikipedia, YouTube and the list goes on and on and on. The television and radio programs we watch and listen to. Absolutely anything associated with the “Cloud”. Any imported goods whether by sea or air. This is just a few but you get the idea.
Just before Christmas I was speaking at a data centre conference in Africa and I wanted to explain how even countries with GPD’s predominantly based in agricultural production have a growing dependency on data centres, and to a degree are already tied in to the services they provide.
In researching before the event I found out that Kenya, for example, is one of the world’s largest exporters of cut flowers and the industry employs a significant number of people. To ensure these products get to market fresh and vibrant they are air shipped to their destinations. This whole industry relies on data centres to both get the planes in the air and to complete all the financial transactions associated. The dependency deepens as mobile payment services are growing across the whole of the African continent incredibly quickly and many organisations now pay staff using their mobile phones, which rely on data centres to support this service.
Data centres use lots of electricity.
In short, yes they do. Compared with a normal office block or residential property data centres use vastly more electricity. The average household in the UK uses approximately 5000kWh of electricity over 12 months, in comparison a micro data centre with just 20 moderately loaded cabinets and a PUE of 1.4 uses 981,120kWh in the same time. A large facility housing 1000 moderately loaded cabinets with a good PUE of 1.2 uses 42,048,000kWh. This is the equivalent of 8,409 households.
Although the numbers above are pretty big and there is no denying data centres, through their energy consumption, do produce a lot of CO2 let’s put the numbers in to perspective. The highest estimates for Northern Europe’s data centre energy consumption are around 65tWh, this produces around 32,500,000 tons of CO2 per year. In comparison the lowest estimates for CO2 produced by Europe’s air travel is 125,000,000 tons of CO2 per year. This means almost all the CO2 produced by all of Europe’s data centres could be “off set” by grounding 1 in 4 flights. Food for thought.