If a September report in the New York Times is to be believed, worldwide data centres use up 30 billion watts of electricity - or the same as 30 nuclear power stations - in "an incongruously wasteful manner".
The article revealed how data centres were run on full capacity by companies around the clock in case of a surge in activity that could crash their operations, and on average were using 6-12% of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations.
Whichever way data centres are operated and how relevant and contemporaneous the findings of the New York Times are, power consumption and energy efficiency in the data centre is at the forefront of IT as industry leaders seek to lower costs and, for the more altruistically inclined, help the planet at the same time.
But since putting data centre infrastructure in Scandinavia, Iceland or Canada isn't a realistic option for every company, the real strides forward are to be made in chip technology, since for all the hype around the current trends in IT like Big Data and cloud computing, the reality is that somewhere the virtual desktops and cloud applications that companies are using actually exist in the real world in vast havens of servers and spindles.
The release of Intel's Xeon E5 processor was aimed precisely at tackling energy efficiency as one of its main objectives while incorporating in-built security, while the low-power Xeon E3 chips for micro servers were designed specifically for web serving and cloud apps.
But migrating to the cloud also is not for every organisation, which still need to keep energy costs down by maintaining their own on-site storage infrastructure if such a scenario fits the needs of the company.
As essential as energy efficiency in the data centre is, power consumption at chip level will probably be noticed more by end users at an organisation. As important as we all think it is that data centres don't operate in such an "incongruously wasteful manner", thinner and more powerful laptops with longer battery lives would be a huge boon in both the enterprise and consumer spheres, while a smartphone that could last for longer than a day without charging would immediately be one of the hottest items on the market.
Earlier this year HP developed apps for Apple iOS and Google Android to allow sysadmins to remotely control and configure new low-power Proliant Gen8 servers. It is when they can perform certain tasks remotely without having to plug their smartphone into the wall each night that we'll be witnessing some impressive end-to-end progress.
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