Storage efficiency has improved even faster. The count increased 550 percent between 2010 and 2018, but fuel costs increased by only 6 percent. Science, Masanet, and co-authors note: Since 2010, the use of electricity as calculated by a standard volume server – the workhorse of the data center – has decreased by four factors, mainly due to improved processor efficiency and reduced idle power”. Data centers are not completely off the hook. Masanet calculates that they are using 1 percent of the world’s electricity – more than most countries. This makes it essential to switch to polluting sources as soon as possible, with some scientists pushing for the use of supercomputers to do the job.
“There is a possibility of sufficient efficiency to last several more years. However, the growing demand for information means that policymakers, data center operators, equipment manufacturers, and data consumers – including those who need to step up efforts to avoid a sharp rise in energy use after this decade.” Masanet said in a statement that the other side of the equation is whether these skill gains can match the fairly increased demand. “While the advancement of the historical skills by data centers is noticeable, our findings do not mean that IT industries and policymakers can rely on their achievements”.
This is the first “down-up” estimate allowed for regional differences and center divisions since 2010. Masanet and colleagues collect data on data processing and storage devices and cooling systems, not on the computers involved. Masanet called for more monitoring of energy consumption so that more accurate estimates can be made in the future. The authors believe that raising awareness of industry-leading skills practices will help improve quality overall. They also called for more research into more efficient computing and technologies for heat removal and for the identification of any centers that lag behind the rest of the field.