Sleeping servers

30 percent of servers in the data centers all over the world are “comatose” but still drawing significant amounts of power. This insight is given by professor Jonathan Koomey who is a a Research Fellow at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University . “I’ve been working with Jon Taylor of Anthesis Group and Aaron Rallo of TSO Logic to compile data on servers in enterprises that are using electricity but generating no useful computing output (we call these comatose servers)”, reports Jonathan Koomey. “Until now, it has been difficult to compile data on idle servers over the network, but recent developments in measurement of server utilization and network data flows allow us finally to identify these servers in an automated way.”


According to the estimations by Uptime Institute and McKinsey&Company, up to 30% of servers in many data centers were comatose. A new compilation of consolidated and anonymized data, taken from TSO Logic’s , growing North American installed base across multiple industries, support this estimate. Available data from a pool of nearly four thousand servers indicate that 30 percent of the physical servers in the sample were comatose.


In 2013, U.S. data centers consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity which is enough to power all the households in New York City twice over for a year. “Global data center capacity is growing rapidly, consuming more financial resources and emitting more greenhouse gases”, states McKinsey&Company in their report Revolutionizing Data Center Energy Efficiency. By 2020, annual data center energy consumption is expected to reach 140 billion kilowatt hours in the nation.


According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, cloud data centers like Google’s and Facebook’s are already very efficient and represent less than 5 percent of U.S. data center electricity consumption. While huge cloud server farms have made significant efficiency improvements, progress has been much slower and uneven across the nearly 3 million other data centers in businesses and organizations that house 95 percent of servers across the country, costing them billions of dollars and kilowatt hours. “In fact, up to one-third of servers are no longer needed but are still consuming large amounts of electricity”, assesses the NRDC. The adoption of energy efficiency best practices could cut electric use by 40 % and save U.S. businesses $ 3.8 billion annually.


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