Friday, 30 May 2008

Power Shortages in London Data Centres

There was an interesting article in The Guardian newspaper in the UK yesterday, which I would recommend to anyone who's concerned about the problems of data centre power.

Basically the article points out that the London financial centre is not getting the power supplies it needs for new data centres and points the finger at two main causes. Firstly, the Olympics in 2012 has priority and has brought all other development to a stop. Until the power requirements for the games are known the City has been told that there can be no more data centres. Secondly, there is a shortage of electrical engineers with the specialist skills to build the infrastructure for the games and the City.

Chris Crosby, VP of data centre company Digital Realty is quoted as saying that "There is the potential now for London to go technology-dry because of the lack of power. One issue is the shortage of power and the expense of it because of connection costs, another is the sheer length of time it takes to sort power out if you do find it somewhere. In London everything takes 8-12 months longer than anywhere else".

The situation is likely to get worse. The article cites estimates that the power demand of the City will rise by 80% in the next 5-7 years, with Docklands expected to rise by 90% over the same time. Companies are already moving out of London to other parts of the UK, or even overseas.

The article also makes reference to proposals from the London Mayor's office concerning CO2 emissions, which is seen as adding to the problem.

Three things. Firstly, it seems to me that there is great opportunity here for all the 'Green' data centre services that all the main IT services companies are promoting. Reducing power use is the main focus and this is certainly what is needed in London.

Secondly, the way that data centre growth is increasing means that with current solutions we're facing a losing battle. The last estimates I saw (from the US) was that data centre power was doubling every 5 years and the figures for the City are only marginally slower. Yet the reports of data centre gains tend to talk about one-off 15-30% power reductions. Clearly these sorts of solutions wont solve the problem in the long run (or even the medium term) - we need more and better answers (such as using the waste heat to warm buildings).

Thirdly, moving out of the cities is a temporary solution as carbon emissions come under closer legislative scrutiny in the coming years.

There's a long way to go yet, but plenty to do in the meantime.

© The Green IT Review

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