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Data Centers Use Less Energy than Commonly Thought

Researchers have developed the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use

Feb 27 2020 UCSB Current

Racks of servers with blue lights

Photo Credit: / CC BY-SA

As the world uses ever more data, it seems reasonable that this must require ever more energy. Not so, says a comprehensive new analysis.

Researchers have developed the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use. With this model, the team found that although demand for data has increased rapidly, massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade. However, the researchers caution that the industry and government should not be lulled into complacency.

The research, which appears in the journal Science, was led by Eric Masanet, a faculty member at the Bren School. Masanet, the holder of the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Sustainability Science for Emerging Technologies, is formerly an associate professor at Northwestern University, where the work was conducted.

The comprehensive model provides a more nuanced view of data center energy use and its drivers, which will enable the researchers to make policy recommendations that can help society better manage this energy use in the future.

“While the historical efficiency progress made by data centers is remarkable, our findings do not mean that the IT industry and policymakers can rest on their laurels,” said lead author Masanet. “We think there is enough remaining efficiency potential to last several more years. But ever-growing demand for data means that everyone — including policymakers, data center operators, equipment manufacturers and data consumers — must intensify efforts to avoid a possible sharp rise in energy use later this decade.”

Read full story at: The UCSB Current

Credit: Harrison Tasoff

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