Wednesday 13 December 2017

December 2017 Update

Just a brief update today.

There is a great amount of confusion about the energy consumption of ICT globally with estimates ranging from 2.5% (on a par with the aviation industry) to 10%. The aviation industry comparison is quite old now but still used by some organisations to highlight the potential environmental impact. The higher figure of 10% was published in 2013 in this report

The thing is this, the growth of ICT services (Cloud, IoT) MITIGATES energy consumption elsewhere, the move from on-site ICT (where the management/legacy may be suspect and quite inefficient) to hyperscale cloud datacentres (AWS/Google/Salesforce) and colocation sites where the management and designs are efficient is a good thing. The use of IoT for monitoring and better management can reduce energy consumption used for maintenance and support services, changing from regular servicing to just in time servicing which reduces overall costs.

The GESi smarter2030 report identifed the opportunities that can arise from the use of ICT systems, this guidance can be found here 

However, us consultants and those involved in policy are somewhat behind the curve and dont always know everything (although we would have you believe that we are on the bleeding edge) a case in point is quantifying the actual and projected energy use in this sector, we are always behind the curve on this as we do not have current and accurate data to work with.
The two figures above are estimates, and unfortunately with ICT it is always a moving target because the ICT ecosystem is very dynamic, new ICT systems are installed everyday, and not much is ever removed, hence a drive to eliminate "zombie" servers, reputed to be at least 30% in of installed IT in the US, these "zombie servers" consume vast quantities of power and network and do nothing, except cost money.

I had two articles published in the trade press yesterday, the first was this article for "inside networks, which can be found here
This was my view on the most significant for data centres in the UK this year, and I presented the 2nd target findings report from the Climate Change Agreement for Data Centres where those in the scheme posted an average PUE of 1.8, 1.8 ! Think about that for the moment, essentially it means that for every 1w of IT power, we are using .8w to support it, mostly cooling but also lights, management, security and building management etc. To put this into perspective, the most advanced data centres designs will now operate at sub 1.2 and the real cutting edge data centres operate at sub 1.1 This is simply not acceptable, operators are burning money and passing that costs onto consumers.

The second article was published in the Data Centre Solutions Magazine and can be found here 
In this report I made an estimate of how much energy was being used by UK PLC, essentially all the data centres, server rooms, mobile phone towers, railway/motorway traffic controls systems that create, process or transmit data for use in and by government, academia and the commercial sector.

My first attempt was very alarming, the figures revealed were quite staggering, the energy consumption was TWh's and the cost was anywhere between £7-9 Billion, time to sharpen the pencil! My estimates were based on the amount of businesses that employed over 50 people, which in the UK are 40,000, and that an organisation employing over 50 people would have an IT estate/server room, with approximately 50 devices (servers, storage and network) and be operating at a PUE of 2. We add to that total Government, including blue light, schools, universities etc to reach 80,000 server rooms with an average electricity of cost of just under £60,000 a year and depending on tariff costing UK PLC some £4-7Billion and using just over 38.5TWh or about 12.5% of UK generated capacity (2016)
Although some commenters are wary of the figures, including one that said that turkey processors employ over 50 people and none of them use a computer! which is a fair comment, all in all I think that my estimates are valid and probably a fair reflection of UK PLC IC cost and consumption.
In summary, as I stated in the 2nd article, we simply do not know the actual amount and probably never will, for that we will have to undertake a deep study and survey and make some assumptions.
If you fancy helping out, a) by assisting with the project, or b) funding the project, contact me directly via the website, social media feeds or email.
Over the Christmas break I'll be writing our 2017 Annual Review so until then, enjoy the holiday preparations and mull over the size of the energy efficiency opportunity.

Until next time......