New Cloud Data Centers – More Energy Please!

Couple of examples this week that data center computing is moving ‘closer to the Cloud’ (if that’s the right term) as we saw some very large projects emerging to service the growing demand for Cloud type services.

China is building a city-sized cloud computing and office complex that will include a mega data center, one of the projects fueling that country’s double-digit growth in IT spending.

The entire complex will cover some 6.2 million square feet, with the initial data center space accounting for approximately 646,000 square feet,

In sheer scale, this project, first announced late last month, is nearly the size of the Pentagon, although in China’s case it is spread over multiple buildings similar to an office park and may include some residential areas. See the full story from the Computerworld blog here.

Also announced was a large development in Portugal which will double the country’s data center capacity in one fell swoop! Portugal Telecom said it is building one of Europe’s largest data centers, with more than 45,000 sq m of operational space for 50,000 servers and covering two levels. The data center’s main focus will be on storage but it will also be used to support communications and cloud computing services offered by Portugal Telecom.

As each new datacenter seems to be bigger and better than the last, are we seeing a move towards super-hub type facilities? The world’s insatiable desire for more access to anything from anywhere, more storage and more computing power on every device sometimes seems never ending. But who picks up the power bill? At the moment we are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, and these huge facilities need a lot of juice..

In the case of the Portugal project, data center will be powered using an adjacent wind farm, according to reports, but this is not the norm. If we reach a point where energy is in short supply (and that scenario is closer than you might think), who takes priority? Do these new giants have an Achilles heel? The term ‘single point of failure’ spring to mind here, and although I’m sure that energy usage has been factored into these designs, it’s a rapidly changing world these days and we can’t just keep adding capacity without thinking about where the power comes from.

Of course we have good examples out there and some far thinking companies are build their centers near to sources of renewable energy such as hydro etc.

Surely it makes sense to make sure that projects like these mega-datacenters have their own power source, like the Cambridge Elean Data Campus which has it’s own renewable Combined Heat and Power (CHP) energy source right next door.

With Facebook coming under renewed attack from Greenpeace over it’s reliance on coal-fired energy, this issue will only become more high profile. Although these new Cloud facilities are impressive, and generally packed with the latest energy efficiency technologies such as server power management and efficient cooling and water usage, they still need huge amounts of power to run. In the future I hope to see more companies taking the bull by the horns and powering their own shops with their own (renewable) juice!

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