UK organisations with the most servers are still unlikely to prioritise energy efficiency

A new report from ASUS – ‘Energy-efficiency in the data centre‘ – has shown that UK companies with fewer ICT facilities or younger IT managers are up to twice as likely to prioritise energy efficiency, while less affluent vertical sectors seem unaware of the impact of energy efficiency on Total Cost of Ownership.

Despite the consumption by data centres of around one per cent of the world’s electricity production, the dramatic rise in energy prices over the last 12 months and ever-more-frequent warnings from environment agencies, UK organisations with large numbers of servers are still unlikely to prioritise energy efficiency in the data centre.

Among UK organisations with 11 or more servers, only 35 per cent said energy efficiency should be a factor in their server purchasing decisions. Fewer – 34 per cent – say that energy efficiency is a factor in such decisions. 33 per cent agree that server-related energy costs should be a line-item in their IT budgets, while 36 per cent disagreed.

Crucially, less than half (47 per cent) of respondents said their IT department has an energy-efficiency and sustainability policy, with 24 per cent saying energy efficiency is of less importance when purchasing servers than it was 12 months ago.

The data also indicates that organisations with fewer servers prioritise energy efficiency far more highly. One explanation for the variation between the organisations with more/fewer servers may be expectations around energy prices: respondents from organisations with more than ten servers are twice as optimistic as respondents from organisations with two to five servers that energy prices will revert to long-term norms within two years.

“In the survey, we also asked respondents to identify the top three factors in their server purchasing decisions, and it would have been perfectly possible for any respondent to say, well, ‘performance, energy efficiency, warranty and these are equally important’, or ‘price, energy efficiency, performance and these are equally important’. But they did not: the data seems to indicate that purchasers think there is a trade-off between these attributes – forcing IT managers and procurement departments to choose based on which attribute is most important to their organisation,” said Morten Mjels, ASUS’s UK & Ireland country product manager for servers.

“Frankly: this is a misperception: all major manufacturers are focused on improving server energy efficiency, while performance world records are broken all the time, by the same servers. It is a story the industry needs to tell more: you can have both energy-efficiency and performance. As a sustainability leader, ASUS would like to see stronger consideration of energy efficiency in the purchase process, because we don’t want to see the worst predictions for energy consumption by ICT equipment coming true,” Mjels added.

ASUS last year committed to increasing the energy efficiency of its products – including servers – to a level that is on average 30 per cent higher than the specifications of Energy Star, the strictest environmental standard.

While the UK is no longer part of the European Union, the issue of data centre energy consumption has attracted political attention in recent years. In February 2020, the European Commission declared: “…the ICT sector also needs to undergo [a] green transformation. The environmental footprint of the sector is significant, estimated at five to nine per cent of the world’s total electricity use and more than two per cent of all emissions. Data centres and telecommunications will need to become more energy efficient, reuse waste energy, and use more renewable energy sources. They can and should become climate neutral by 2030.”

Commentators in some countries are predicting regulation of data centre energy usage in the near-term.

“The IT industry is rapidly transforming, with a key focus now on sustainability and energy efficiency in all aspects of operations. This is proving challenging to areas such as AI, ML or VR that require more computing power and generate significantly more heat. Traditional air-cooled data centres are struggling to reduce the extra heat generated by these new demands, which is where the sustainability issue resides as more power, water and cooling are being consumed,” said Jon Clark, commercial director at Carbon-Z.

“This is why it is great to see ASUS increase its focus on server energy efficiency and run these in new liquid cooling technologies addressing the challenge of performance and energy efficiency and setting measurable targets. The survey results presented are an essential step in creating a better understanding and increasing perception to end-users on the performance for efficiency.”

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