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UK datacentres hit by rising Energy costs

The rising costs of energy and the unrelenting demand for IT will severely test the operational viability of UK Datacentres by 2010 says the Power and Cooling Survey 2006, a new report by the Datacentre Practice at BroadGroup, the leading analyst firm.

Datacentres in Europe have reached a crossroads in power consumption and research for this report shows that further increases in power consumption are not sustainable beyond the short term. IT-demand alone has created an energy consumption goliath with the annual energy costs of an average UK datacentre estimated at near €5.3 million per year.

By 2010, against a shifting energy market, this cost is expected to more than double to €11 million, making the UK the most expensive place to host in Europe.

Keith Breed, research director at BroadGroup and author of the report said: “While the cost of electricity has continues to rise (with energy costs now accounting for near 30% of a datacentre’s operating costs) coupled with the accelerating pace of online economic activity UK datacentres are under severe operational pressure.”

“Datacentres are hitting a technological ceiling where cooling technologies could become the prohibitive factor - for either cost or reliability reasons. Increasing energy costs are further exacerbating this fundamental issue of running a datacentre. However, I believe the IT industry is one of the most adaptable of all industries and we are already seeing the major hardware manufacturers responding,” comments Sir Anthony Cleaver, Chairman for IXEurope. “We need Moore's law to be replaced with Moore's green law - every 18 months halving the power needed to carry out the same calculations.”

“Through e-commerce, intranet, web portals; online payment and gaming transactions and the financial services sector, are all placing their demands on the datacenter to increase the delivery of IT-power. Add to this a growing sentiment towards green credentials and the carbon emissions from buildings directive, which comes in to force in January 2007, increasingly UK datacenters will find themselves facing severe operational challenges.”

The emergence and interest in eco-technology solutions and adapted-business models are evidence that the UK industry could acclimatise to the eco-power challenge. The research shows new innovative and ground-breaking concepts to reduce energy usage are under development or about to be introduced - techniques that could benefit other large power users in other industries.

Investments in technology come in the shape of new ultra-thin high density server designs and storage technologies, hydrogen fuel-cells as alternative ‘green’ power sources, virtualisation technologies that spread the use of computing resources to minimise heat and nanofluid-cooling systems for the IT estate. Adapted-business innovations are looking at how firms bulk purchase electricity; some operating financial derivatives exchanges to buy or sell back energy to stay competitive or billing energy costs direct to customers.

The increases in processor power lies at the heart of power and cooling challenges, high density servers use less space and enable increased transactions but consume more energy per square foot. Increases in demand for power and cooling within the centre derive from a steady increase in processor power, which results in increasing heat and thermal rise. Maintaining the datacentre and its cooling environment is calculated to account for 70% of the total electricity output - premises remodelling is taking place today to minimise the effects of energy consumption and cooling.

Breed continued: “The challenges are immense but the research shows the industry has the will and conviction to tackle the eco-issues head-on. However, medium-sized enterprises are unlikely to sustain in-house datacentres as it may become economically unviable. In the coming years UK datacentres will adopt the most appropriate solutions to make their centres meet transactional-demand and stay green and viable.”

Industry:

“Helping customers control their power and cooling problems has become a key focus for HP within the past year but it’s something our Labs and engineers have been working on for more than 10,” said Ron Mann, director of rack and power systems, Enterprise Storage and Servers, HP. “By looking at power and cooling from the chip level all the way up through the datacentre, our customers are learning how to alleviate the rising costs and energy consumption associated with these issues.”

“Whilst data centre design has changed little over the last 30 years, IT technology is such that, as a rule of thumb, every watt of power consumed is dissipated as heat. This means that the power demands of high-density cabinets can overwhelm well-tried and traditional cooling methods,” said Keith Carpenter, UK southern regional manager, Emerson Network Power. “Solutions are needed that can respond to increasing heat dissipation and provide high- density cooling that is responsive to both general and localised excess heat without requiring frequent major reviews of data centre architecture.”

Commenting, Anthony Foy, group managing director Interxion: “Two years ago most of our customers were using 3-4 Kw per rack however as the deployment of blade servers and high density computing environments has increased our customers often requests 10-12 Kw per rack with some high density customers requiring up to 20kW. In order to meet this increased demand Interxion recently secured an additional 13 megawatts of power in order to meet this trend which is mirrored across all major markets in Europe.”

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.