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Data Center Handbook by Hwaiyu Geng

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2Energy and Sustainability in Data Centers

William J. Kosik

Hewlett-Packard Company, Chicago, IL, USA

2.1 Introduction

Flashback to 1999: Forbes published a seminal article coauthored by Peter Huber and Mark Mills. It had a wonderful tongue-in-cheek title: “Dig More Coal—the PCs Are Coming.” The premise of the article was to challenge the idea that the Internet would actually reduce overall energy use in the United States, especially in sectors such as transportation, banking, and health care where electronic data storage, retrieval, and transaction processing were becoming integral to business operations. The opening paragraph, somewhat prophetic, reads as follows:

Southern California Edison, meet Amazon.com. Somewhere in America, a lump of coal is burned every time a book is ordered on-line. The current fuel-economy rating: about 1 pound of coal to create, package, store and move 2 megabytes of data. The digital age, it turns out, is very energy-intensive. The Internet may someday save us bricks, mortar and catalog paper, but it is burning up an awful lot of fossil fuel in the process.

What Mills was trying to demonstrate is that even if you never have to drive to your bank to deposit a paycheck, or require delivery trucks to bring CDs to your house to acquire new music, a great deal of electricity is still being used by the server that processed your transaction or the storage and networking gear that is delivering your streaming media. While I am not going to detail out ...

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