The AIMS Group (AIMS), Southeast Asia’s leading carrier-neutral data services provider, today shares that according to experts, data centres will consume three times as much energy over the next decade and this rate of increase is a worrying trend for the local data centre industry as a whole.
In 2015 alone, worldwide data centres consumed over 416 Terawatt hours of electricity – which is significantly higher than the entire power electricity consumption of the United Kingdom of 300 Terawatt hours (Source: Britain’s foremost data centre expert, Ian Bitterlin).
Despite the advancements in server storage capacity and data centre cooling technologies, the amount of energy consumed by data centres accounting for about 2 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions; or roughly the same carbon footprint as the airline industry.
In reference to this worrying phenomenon, AIMS Group Chief Operating Officer Mohammad Azman says many are still unaware that power-hungry applications are the main culprit behind the enormous power consumption by data centres.
“Every Facebook ‘Like’, Instagram post, or Pokemon Go you play, or any Internet activity for that matter – actually requires that a huge amount of data needs to be stored somewhere.
Today the statistics show that that global data centres consume 3 per cent of the global electric supply. “And with the internet of things (IoT) set to bring in even more internet driven applications and innovations, energy consumption will increase exponentially in the very near future,” Azman says
“What people don’t realise is that, as much as 50 percent of a data centres operating costs is contributed by power consumption to support both the IT and the Cooling power requirements. Over the last 3 years, AIMS has seen an over 20 percent increase in power consumption at our data centres alone,” he says, adding that the local data centre industry is in a conundrum at how to solve the power consumption crisis of high costs as well as outdated and inefficient power infrastructure.
Applications, the Power Drainers
As of June 2016, there were 2.2 million apps available for Android download while Apple stores came a close second with 2 million applications (Source: Statista). Apple also recently announced that a total of 130 billion applications have been downloaded from Apple stores globally between July 2008 to June 2016.
Azman, says, “More data means more business for data centres. In fact the hugely successful application industry is the No 1 driver for data centre businesses to thrive and continue to be in demand.”
However the massive explosion of applications has also been one of the driving contributors to the energy consumption of data centres and on personal devices
The recent Pokemon Go worldwide frenzy saw over 100 million downloads of the application within a month of its launch. In that time, users have experienced crashes and mobile battery draining. Pokemon Go players have resorted to carrying extra power banks on their ‘hunts.’
“While everyone knows these applications drain mobile battery power, how many people realise that these applications are also energy guzzlers for data centres?
Application developers are constantly looking at ways to develop apps that are fast and interactive. But what we don’t see is an emphasis on developing applications that consume less power
. Application developers need to prioritise creating apps that are not power guzzlers.
This is a serious point to note if the industry wants to continue to enjoy the advancement of technology and internet innovations in the future without further damaging the sustainability of the environment,” says Azman.
Taking a closer look at the ecosystem
While the Malaysian datacentre industry has been urging Tenaga Nasional Berhad (‘TNB’) to re-tariff the electricity classification for data centres, Azman believes there is much that can be done by the industry and its ecosystem.
“The hardware sector has seen massive innovation to address growing data and energy consumptions in the data centre industry. Equipment that are 8 to 15 years old are inefficient and would impact service levels ie. using more units of power than usual. But local players may not have the money to reinvest into these power equipment – this is something that all data centre players need to priorities,” says Azman.
“On our side, in the next two years AIMS will continue investing to make our data centres more energy efficient through new cooling technology and power distribution systems,” adds Azman.
Renewable energy and cooling measures are another key area that needs to be looked into.
He explains, “Today’s servers can run at much higher temperatures than the perceived average industry standards. Higher temperatures require less energy consumption, and the difference is substantial. Servers used to have to be kept at temperatures of 22 degrees celcius in order to ensure they don’t breakdown due to overheating. But server technology has seen much advancement and we can easily run server rooms at temperatures between 27-32 degree celcius.”
“Fact is that free night air on a cool night in Malaysia is actually enough to keep today’s servers cool, but the market is not yet ready to accept free air cooling instead of power hungry mechanical cooling in operation today. That’s where the industry needs to take a proactive measure to re-educate clients on the possibility of using higher temperatures in the data centre to reduce power consumption.”
While Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDeC) has been at the forefront by conducting studies on this, it is us the data centre players that are key to push for market acceptance. AIMS is working closely with MDeC in re-educating clients. They recently held a forum with key players in various industries to share about recent developments in data centres including the raising of temperatures that is now possible with better technology.
“Unless we start looking into all these factors soon and make changes across the ecosystem, the data centre industry is going to be one of the key contributors to global warming.” ends Azman.