New technologies and emerging paradigms are causing data centre energy consumption to rise. But how much energy is wasted? Dr Umaima Haider, Data Centre World Frankfurt speaker and researcher at the EC Research Lab, discusses the rise of the wasteful data centre and the latest research into data centre sustainability
With the proliferation of 5G, AI, Big Data, IoT and social media, all of which reside in the cloud, there is an ever-increasing demand for energy in data centres.
Take popular consumer data storage platforms, which for the majority of society constitute the cloud. At the Data Centre Re-transformation Conference held last month in Manchester, Uptime Institute revealed it requires 666GWh/year on average to store a selfie on the cloud (assuming the photo is 2.5MB and 6.5kWh/GB is required for annual storage, and given that on average each of the UK’s 41M cloud users store 1000 photos per year).
How much of this resource is used and how much goes to waste? According to Uptime Institute, 60-70 percent of these photos are not used after they are captured, translating to a waste of around 400GWh/year. When viewed in this light, the majority of consumer photos sitting in the data centre resemble litter clogging up digital infrastructure. The data centre lights up our photos, even when our eyes are elsewhere.
In real terms, the energy wasted is equivalent to that consumed by around 100,000 European households every year. When we consider what else could be powered with this amount of energy the problem becomes impossible to ignore. In the healthcare sector, the same amount of energy could power around 1M Neonatal ventilators (the intensive care equipment that provides ventilatory support to preterm and critically ill infants) per year.
The situation calls for many responses and encompasses many stakeholders. Issues of energy efficiency permanently occupy the minds of data centre operators, but for consumers it’s an afterthought. We need to raise awareness in our society by making cloud users aware of the environmental impact of conspicuous consumption.