A recent NY Times investigation done with help of McKinsey & Co. revealed data centers supporting “the cloud” were consuming over 2% of the nation’s energy in 2010. One finding, these data centers “used the equivalent output of 30 nuclear power plants,” detracts attention from the reality: much of the energy they consume is coming from carbon-based power plants.
According to the investigation, one data center alone can consume as much power as mid-sized city. What’s equally troubling, most data centers are incredibly inefficient, running at utlilization rates of 7-12% and consuming exponentially more power than required to meet their operating capacity out of fear of “down time.” The back-up power systems preferred by many, diesel generators, are adding to the problem and generating a growing number of environmental fines.
Granted “Big Data” is a relatively immature industry, but one wonders how much longer the exaggerated claims of “online being greener” will continue. As the old saying goes: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but….”