Energy demand of servers soars

Energy consumed by computer servers has doubled in the last five years in the US and the rising trend looks set to continue, with IT carving out an increasing share of the country's total carbon footprint.

According to figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency, servers now account for 1.5% of the USA’s electricity use and the total demand is set to double again by 2011.

US tech firm CDW Corporation has published its own report highlighting that while almost all executives responsible for purchasing IT equipment and support list energy efficiency as one of their concerns, far fewer are doing anything to address it.

“While energy efficiency has become a ‘motherhood’ value in IT – more than 90% of IT buyers say they care about it – there is often much uncertainty about what to do, primarily because good information is severely lacking,” said CDW vice president Mark Gambill.

“The first step in reducing energy consumption is to know what you are spending, yet more than 40% of technology professionals say they don’t see their organisation’s energy bill.”

European hosting company, Amenworld has also carried out research in this area, timed to coincide with the launch of its own range of energy efficient servers.

According to the company, there is a similar gap between thought and action in the UK, with the average server unnecessarily emitting over 600kg of CO2 per year – carbon that could be reduced by optimally locating components to boost cooling airflow through the computers, reducing the system’s temperature and the amount of power consumed.

The company compares the industry’s carbon footprint to that of aviation, claiming that in Britain alone the preventable carbon footprint of server is equivalent to over 2500 jumbo jets making return flights to India.

Olivier Djidjelli, Amen’s UK manager, said: “Like other industries, the hosting industry has a role in the global effort to reduce levels of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

“Amenworld is playing its part by offering customers Eco Servers, a more environmentally conscious alternative to hosting.”

The British Government also recently announced plans to take action in this area – by putting its own house in order.

According to their own figures, IT equipment is responsible for 20% of the carbon emissions generated by Government offices – around 460,000 tonnes a year.

Departments have been asked to implement a number of measures which will help make the use of IT equipment carbon neutral within the next four years.

These will include the automatic shut down of computers outside the standard eight hour working day and auditing data centres to ensure they are using energy efficient equipment.

Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson said: “Worldwide, computers are responsible for the same quantity of carbon emissions as the airline industry. It is a serious problem that requires a serious solution.

“That’s why I’m so proud that we are the first Government anywhere in the world to formally set out exactly what we’re going to do to make our ICT systems carbon neutral within four years.

“We won’t achieve this just by offsetting but by making serious changes to the way we do business.”

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie