Event Heralds Arrival of High-Efficiency Data Centers

Speakers at a conference held by Boulder, Colorado-based E Source, proclaimed the imminent arrival of Internet data centers that will provide far more computing power than their present day counterparts, but consume little or no more electricity.

Data centers, which store, process, and route the digital information that travels over the Internet, often demand as much as 60 times the peak power drawn by an average commercial building. The huge electric power demands associated with these facilities, in some cases, have considerably stressed utilities, many of whom are already struggling to maintain adequate supplies in the face of the California power crisis. Furthermore, these high power demands are significantly impeding the financial standing of the data center industry, which is still reeling from the dot-com bubble collapse.

Speaking at the conference, titled “Delivering Energy Services to Internet Hotels and Other High Density Electronic Loads,” Jay Stein, one of the nation’s leading energy technology analysts, predicted that in the near future, data centers will incorporate much more efficient server computers, digital information storage devices, cooling systems, and power management systems. Stein, a research director with E Source, a leading provider of information on retail energy markets and the event’s organizer, projected that such efficiency improvements would not only take the strain off those utilities that serve data centers, but would also help struggling data center operators achieve profitability.

Another speaker at the event, which was largely attended by utility industry executives, was Chris Hipp, of RLX Technologies, who presented the audience with a new data server that will make it possible to pack eight times as many servers into data centers with no increase in energy consumption. RLX Technologies has released this product, commercially, yesterday.

In his closing remarks, Stein drew comparisons between today’s data centers and the steam engine, which spurred on the industrial revolution. “When James Watt improved the efficiency of the steam engine fourfold, he made it possible to take mechanical drivepower, which before then had been used exclusively for water pumping, and extend it to a wide variety of applications including transportation, manufacturing, earth moving, and electric generation,” he said. “Similarly, high efficiency data centers will drive down the cost of computing, making it possible to embed networked computers into all manner of mundane devices, including light bulbs and air conditioners, and make our lives more comfortable and entertaining.”

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