The consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average, they use only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations, according to The New York Times. McKinsey & Company sampled about 20,000 servers in about 70 large data centers.
The rest keeps servers idling and is there in case of a surge in activity. Essentially overbuilding to create a sense of security.
McKinsey & Company sampled about 20,000 servers in about 70 large data centers spanning the commercial gamut: drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies and government agencies in order to come up with their data.
Efficiency solutions are available, but companies are reluctant to change, according to the article, even though the energy wasted in a data center is as much as 30 times the amount needed to fulfill its purpose.
Worldwide, data centers use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the US account for one-quarter to one-third of that load.
But some organizations are committing resources to increase energy efficiency.
A FaceBook Data Center in Princeville, Oregon (pictured) was completed last year that uses 38 percent less energy to do the same work as Facebook’s existing facilities, while costing 24 percent less.