Data Centers

How much does it take to power a data center? It's none of your business.


John SheesleyEarlier, I mentioned how big new data centers at Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are going to have a huge environmental impact. For one, Google recently purchased 800 acres of land in Pryor, Oklahoma where it plans to build a $600 million dollar data center. This new center will employ about 200 people and pay them an average of $48,000 a year.

How much power will this new massive data center draw?

Your guess is as good as mine.

As part of the deal, Oklahoma passed a law that exempts large power consumers from its open records law. As soon as a company starts using more than 2.5 megawatts of power, they no longer have to report their power usage to the public. Considering the size of competing data centers that Microsoft and Yahoo have in Washington state that draw over 40 megawatts each, that's a pretty low threshold.

The idea of course, was to entice Google to locate its center in Oklahoma rather than someplace else. Google considers power usage to be a trade secret and Oklahoma wanted to do everything it could, including allowing Google to shield that information, to get it to locate there. And it worked.

But - is it right? If we're as concerned about the environment as we're supposed to be today, I would think we'd want to know who the large energy consumers are. While on one hand governments are encouraging us to swap incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents - even to the point of banning them, on the other they're telling companies like Google: "Sure - suck up all the power you want! It'll be our little secret." It's hard to hold people accountable for their usage if there's a special class that can do as they please.

17 comments
tim.walsh
tim.walsh

So two Washington State data centers belonging to Yahoo and Microsoft draw 40 mW each. This is a huge amount of power. Google is secretive about everything, and I don't expect anyone outside of Google knows the truth on the number of centers they have, but excluding Google, does anyone know how many of these giant centers there are? Is there somewhere on the web that lists data centers that draw more than, say, 10 mW? I have not been able find anything. Also, I had understood that it is becoming common practice for the operators to choose locations for new datacenters where they can build hydroelectric stations to power them, to save money and to get the green lobby off their backs. Tim Walsh CEO http://www.kellsystems.com

threew
threew

The logical end result of reducing power consumption & protecting the environment from any change at all is digging for grubs with sticks in the bushes. We've done that; we know what it's like; some folks are still doing it and don't like it at all. I agree with Google on the main point: Power consumption is a trade secret. However the money spent on power is not and is public record (for public companies). Pick up an annual report and look at the financials.

richy.mitchell
richy.mitchell

Do you think big corporations or oil companies are really concerned about the enviroment. Time for a reality check. The bottom line is the bottom line.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

If big businesses are sucking up all the power to the point of degrading other users access; then it becomes our business. Otherwise, as long as they can afford to buy it, they're golden. Realistically, ANY business's use of power should be either all public, or all private. The amount of usage shouldn't matter.

DanLM
DanLM

It's more money in their pockets when they control cost's. Energy is a cost. duuu. Economics 101. By the way I see you all missed previous articles where Google builds their own servers because they are more energy efficient. There was a whole thread about server manufacturers selling you bigger power supplies that arn't fully utilized in most environments. This thread was driven by the original story about Google's servers. But, hey. Bash the corporations. Go for it. Dan

stan
stan

The same rules should apply to everyone, including corporations. That said, it none of you business how much power I use or what kinds of power. And its none of my business what you use.

2gatorgrads
2gatorgrads

Believe it or not it takes energy to create any of the products we use. The key here is that WE USE the products that these companies offer. There are plenty of websites Concerning the post about Pollution, I have worked in heavy industry for over 10 years, there has not been one place that did not have to comply with EPA Clean Air and Clean Water regulations. (Comprehensive reviews of all permitted pollutants, continous emissions monitoring of sources, yearly compliance testing from third party companies)Even the power industry has to comply, take a look at their websites. Our cars by the way pollute and are responsible for over 1/2 of many of the greenhouse gases and toxic air pollutants that we emit. Educate yourselves www.epa.gov in particular http://www.epa.gov/air/caa/peg/carstrucks.html

dratman
dratman

It seems so natural now to see common sense turned on its head. If you use only a relatively small amount of energy, of course you must report it. Use a lot and it's none of anybody's business. That makes perfect sense, right? We all understand it immediately. It even seems inevitable. Baffled, world? Just call it "American logic."

amaitos
amaitos

As a European I have to say that this mentality is really bad for both democracy and environment. I sincerely hope that the confidence US scientists and engineers are showing to their ability to produce environmentally friendly energy, somewhere in the future, is valid.

Labrat636
Labrat636

is nothing new. They have influence, and probably a lot of friends in the Oklahoma government. The company will bring in taxes and provide jobs. How is it any different from businesses that spew toxins into the air being virtually exempt from pollution laws, but we have to get emmision tests done on our vehicles?

brian.mills
brian.mills

Large corporations should not have special priveleges when it comes to power usage. If it's not made a matter of public record, there should be some Department of Energy oversight to ensure that corporations aren't abusing the power grid while the rest of us are doing everything we can afford to lower our energy bills. It hardly seems fair for big business to be sucking down the juice while I'm being told to just take a sip. If a company wants its energy usage to be kept secret, they should set up some alternative energy solution, such as solar panels or wind turbines. It doesn't really matter how much electricity you use if you generate it yourself.

DanLM
DanLM

time for a reality check. If it saves a buck, and they make more money from conserving. your damn right they will. Or don't you think they should make a profit? dan

jsnavely
jsnavely

MY car is a bicycle and I work to keep energy consumption as low as possible at work, including server consolidation and considering energy consumption in purchase decisions. "Everything requires power" is just an excuse to do whatever you want. We should all set our sights a little higher than the rediculously lax EPA standards.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

it yourself...??? That sounds like permission for large companies to start building their OWN power plants / nuclear reactors. Hey if they can generate it for their own use then, as you say it does not really matter! The goal is to reduce usage no matter what the SOURCE - you have got completely the wrong end of the stick!!

thensley
thensley

If history has one thing to teach us, it is that affluence and power rules. Money is the master and has no conscience. We complain that China and Mexico are stealing our country, yet do we constantly spend our money on goods produced there. Quit using Microsoft products. Stop using Google. In the long run - nobody get out alive. So- Don't Worry - Be Happy.

sleepin'dawg
sleepin'dawg

big and small will do their best to maximize their power usage to best advantage, It only makes sense, both economically and socially. Profligate wastage of resources is on the down swing but a state, any state, will do its utmost to attract money and jobs to the local economy. 200 jobs at an acverage of $48,000 per annum is going to carry a lot of weight with the local politicos but they won't be foolish enough to ignore the environmental concerns of their voters, that is, not unless they don't care about retaining their political power. If profligate wastage is observed you can count on the tree huggers to take up arms against it. A few bucks might be saved by a company only to be thrown away defending themselves against the environmental lobbiests. Mind you this applies only to new installations; it's a different matter for older business installations, like mining for coal and other minerals and/or drilling for oil and gas. Isn't Oklahoma rich in oil and/or natural gas??? Instead of looking at Google, look to the gas and oil suppliers to ensure their environmental footprint isn't bing unnecessarily damaging. [b]Dawg[/b] ]:)

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

There is a reason that cars have to go through emissions checks and that just because a company isn't required to report it's consumption to the public doesn't mean it doesn't have to comply with applicable laws. This has nothing to do with EPA standards being lax. Bill

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