by Kim S. Nash

Data Centers: Where Does the Power Go?

Oct 30, 20071 min
Green IT

It may come as a surprise that more than half of data center power actually isn't used by the servers.

Seventy percent of electricity in a data center powers equipment other than IT gear, according to American Power Conversion (APC), a vendor of backup products and service in West Kingston, R.I.

If you’re considering how a green data center may save you money, check out APC’s estimates of power usage in a typical 1 megawatt data center:

  • Air-cooled chillers: 33 percent
  • Uninterruptible power supplies: 18 percent
  • Computer room air conditioners: 9 percent
  • Power distribution units: 5 percent
  • Humidifiers: 3 percent
  • Switches: 1 percent
  • Lighting: 1 percent

Just 30 percent of incoming electricity goes to IT servers. That’s a significant portion, but by no means the majority.

The next time someone tries to sell you superefficient “green” servers, listen. But realize that that’s only one factor in building an environmentally sound data center.

Also, the way you have your servers—and chillers, air conditioners and humidifiers, too—placed on the floor can waste or save power as well. Installing air conditions at the room’s perimeters, for example, may bring in the right number of cooling units. But using fans to push that cold air close to the racks of blade servers in the center of the room will use extra power and cost extra money.