At issue is the energy needed not just to run an ever-increasing number of server farms around the country, but also to keep them cool to ensure reliable operation for the critical functions they now perform.
But new, efficient cooling systems in data-center floors and on server racks themselves — including using cooler air or water resources naturally surrounding the centers — are cutting the amount of energy they consume, says green IT analyst Eric Woods of cleantech research firm Pike Research.
He adds the introduction of more powerful, yet energy-efficient, server technology has helped by cutting down on energy needs and by allowing for the consolidation of several data centers into one facility.
“You are getting two to three times the performance for the same power draw,” he says.
Pike estimates the green data center market opportunity will be just under $13 billion in 2011, and nearly $41 billion by 2015.
“The big guys have led the way with their own data center innovations,” says Woods, referring to information-technology sector titans like IBM , Intel , HP and Microsoft .
But other links in the data management supply chain — data center builders, hosting companies and communications systems operators like phone companies — are also focusing on the issue to keep their clients happy, he adds.
With more and more companies adding data capacity — AFCOM’s 4,000 members tend over 3,600 data centers — exploding demand from all kinds of businesses has become a challenge.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates data-center energy usage doubled from the dotcom boom days of 2000 to 2006 and will double again by the end of 2011.
The EPA says U.S. server farms used the same amount of energy as all of the nation’s TV sets combined — about 1.5 percent of total national electrical load, with a power bill of more than $4.5 billion annually.