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How Internet Data Centers Waste Power

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the let's-see-some-invisible-handling dept.

Power 170

Rick Zeman writes "The New York Times has extensively surveyed and analyzed data center power usage and patterns. At their behest, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average they were using only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations. 'Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants.' In other words, 'A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.' This is the price being paid to ensure everyone has instant access to every email they've ever received, or for their instant Facebook status update. Data Center providers are finding that they can't rack servers fast enough to provide for users' needs: A few companies say they are using extensively re-engineered software and cooling systems to decrease wasted power. Among them are Facebook and Google, which also have redesigned their hardware. Still, according to recent disclosures, Google's data centers consume nearly 300 million watts and Facebook's about 60 million watts. Many of these solutions are readily available, but in a risk-averse industry, most companies have been reluctant to make wholesale change, according to industry experts."

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A sales pitch and a loaded gun (2, Interesting)

Scareduck (177470) | about 2 years ago | (#41428433)

"Buy our product or we'll agitate for standards that make them mandatory." It's shit like this that annoys me mightily about the NYT.

Re:A sales pitch and a loaded gun (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#41428519)

Yeah. This article struck me as particularly whiny. 30 Nuclear Power Plants! The horror.

It's almost like they want you to read a paper newspaper or something.

Re:A sales pitch and a loaded gun (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429401)

"Buy our product or we'll agitate for standards that make them mandatory." It's shit like this that annoys me mightily about the NYT.

Genuine question: What are you talking about? I don't understand which product the NYT is claiming you should buy. I've read half of TFA and it just sounds like they're reporting facts. What are they selling you?

Re:A sales pitch and a loaded gun (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#41429743)

TFS mentions "many of these solutions." Maybe those?

Re:A sales pitch and a loaded gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41430145)

TFS mentions "many of these solutions." Maybe those?

... but the NYT doesn't sell "many of these solutions," which I took to be the implication from the original comment. Is the NYT not allowed to notice that some companies have implemented solutions to wasting power while others have not? I fail to see how it's a conflict of interest or any sort of strong arm, as was originally implied.

Re:A sales pitch and a loaded gun (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#41430477)

Didn't you get the memo? Culture is now so hypersensitivized to everything that any positive mention of anything, however slight, must automatically constitute an endorsement of it. Ambivalent dismissal is the new acknowledgement.

Re:A sales pitch and a loaded gun (4, Interesting)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#41429461)

I don't really understand this hostility. I read the New York Times online, everyday. I don't get a paper delivered to my door. Those few, those happy few who actually read this new york times article, read it online.

The circulation is a million pulp, half a million online.

First post? (-1, Offtopic)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 2 years ago | (#41428437)

...on my own submission? LOL.

Re:First post? (3, Funny)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 2 years ago | (#41428979)

First post? ...on my own submission? LOL.

No no; you see you made the mistake of shutting down your server between the post and when it was put up by slashdot to save energy. You are just too slow to achieve internet time like Google or Facebook and will never make it in the market. Let this be a lesson.

On a small-scale, virtualize (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428441)

Using VMWare or other similar technologies, you can dramatically cut the amount of the energy you need to power your servers. You can even take advantage of on-demand servers, so that if you do suddenly become busy, it'll power up more hardware to handle the load. Great for optimizing around a 9-5 workday.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428567)

You're (lack of) thought process is giving all Anonymous Cowards a bad name.
Calling you clueless insults the clueless.

I don't even know where to begin shooting down your theory.

You must have been the kid in class that jumps up and gives any answer just to be the fastest to answer without thinking, and then be surprised because the whole class looked at you and laughed.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428621)

I am certainly NOT (lack of) thought process.

I looked at your writing and laughed.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 2 years ago | (#41430295)

All? You mean there is more than one? And here I thought that it was just some individual's internet handle...

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (5, Insightful)

thoriumbr (1152281) | about 2 years ago | (#41428575)

Or use a mainframe running lots of Linuxes... Can cut the power to 10% while delivering the same computing power. Mainframes have a very good power management this days.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#41428901)

Mod parent up.

Mainframes still get a bad rap from those that remembered the early 90s and 80s. But the new IBM series can run 10,000 vms of redhat and unlike VMWare the vms can share ram with each other. The powerpc processors have something insane like 32 mbs of l3 cache per core. Also you can set the mainframe to open or close the number of VMs per load dynamically all by itself.

Mainframes have alwaus been 15 yeats ahead of lintel servers. VMWare is doing things today mainframrs did in the 1990s.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (0)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#41429283)

Benchmarks, or stfu.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429437)

that was the whole point of this article, you stupid twat.

Why are you worried about benchmark scores on servers that typically only run computations 12 percent of the time?

You people eat up artificial gimmicky numbers like nothing. It's amazing.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#41429805)

and you people eat up fast-talking sales pitches like nothing. Show me the numbers,

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41429887)

that was the whole point of this article, you stupid twat.

Why are you worried about benchmark scores on servers that typically only run computations 12 percent of the time?

You people eat up artificial gimmicky numbers like nothing. It's amazing.

I think the problem is that while you can run 10,000 linux instances on a single mainframe and maybe it can keep them all chugging along at 12% load (though it seems like it would take a rather sizable mainframe to be equivalent to 12% of 10,000 or 1200 standalone servers), but when your peak load comes and those linux servers that are nearly idle all night long are suddenly 80% utilized, can the mainframe keep all 10,000 instances running along at 80% utilization?

And can it do it more cheaply than on VMWare and Intel? You'd need around 300 4 socket 8 core CPU Intel servers to handle 10,000 instances using up one core each of CPU power, figure around $10M for the cluster and 10 - 15 racks -- can you build the same mainframe for $10M in less space?

I really don't know the answer.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#41429953)

I do not know. I do know the newer mainframes shut off cores and turn them on depending on load. This will save power while I imagine it would be difficult or impossible to do this with a server farm that easily.

While the other poster wanted benchmarks I think this would be impossible to do on a reasonable budget. Mainframes have always been about I/O and load and transactions per hour. A datacenter is one hell of an I/O load network wise and this is something the mainframe would be better at.

IBM mainframes are very expensive and that is for sure. However so is running a server farm where the electrical costs in a year easily outnumber the fixed costs of the hardware. I imagine less heat too for 2 or 3 mainframes vs 700 blades. But there is the issue of the mainframe being the central point of failure. Since this slashdot perhaps a mainframe guru could care to comment on this in terms of the new one that just came out next month?

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41430177)

I do not know. I do know the newer mainframes shut off cores and turn them on depending on load. This will save power while I imagine it would be difficult or impossible to do this with a server farm that easily.

VMware will do the same thing, but at a server level -- DRS [vmware.com] can migrate virtual servers off of lightly used physical servers and then power off the physical server. Bringing them back online will take a few minutes since it needs to wait for the physical server to reboot after it's powered back on.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (1)

Guspaz (556486) | about 2 years ago | (#41430213)

It's not like Intel platforms are completely devoid of any power saving features. Processors have power-saving features, drives can be low-power versions (they do make enterprise versions of them) or solid state, and in a cloud environment you can shut entire servers off when they're not needed to handle the load.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#41430051)

Here you go for the recent release last month [wikipedia.org] . Here is more info on on getting linux to run [wikipedia.org] .

It may not be computationally faster at all compared to a datacenter, but I/O wise where transactions per hour as well as cooling and electrical costs can bring an advantage.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 years ago | (#41430399)

Saying a 32MB L3 cache PowerPC CPU is better than Intel CPUs is like saying Intel Xeons are better than ARM A7.. just look at the performance benchmarks!

having 32MB of cache is trading off cost, power, and latency, for better data locality, which is almost completely useless for normal PC workloads.

Re:On a small-scale, virtualize (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 2 years ago | (#41430549)

just FYI VMWare can share RAM with the VMs - its often used to provision more Windows systems than could otherwise exist on the underlying hardware, as a lot of RAM is used just to provide the same pages of static OS code - no need to have a copy for each instance if it never changes.

It's one big reason to use VMWare over HyperV, not that that stops anyone using MS stuff from using HyperV simple because it has that big M branding on it :(

Oh, not slanted at all. Nope. (2)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#41428449)

>This is the price being paid to ensure everyone has instant access to every email they've ever received, or for their instant Facebook status update.

Way to trivialize users' needs.

Crikes.

--
BMO

Re:Oh, not slanted at all. Nope. (2)

Technician (215283) | about 2 years ago | (#41428705)

This is the reason there is a race for high performance chips that draw little power. Your tablet may sip power and take a few seconds to render a Facebook page, but the server sending milliions of pages needs to sip little power too. Whoever makes the best server chips wins.

Corrected URL (5, Informative)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 2 years ago | (#41428469)

I have no idea how the URL got mangled when Timothy moved the anchor text to a different part of the article, but here's the correct link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/technology/data-centers-waste-vast-amounts-of-energy-belying-industry-image.html?hpw&pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]

So? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428487)

Worst case, if we just include first world people, it's only about a 100W per person. Change a few lightbulbs, set down the heat, set the AC up by a degree, and you've reduced your power consumption by that amount. Of course, we need to talk about energy here, not just power, but hey.

And since when does a tech site need to spell out "millions" and "billions"? Are we not able to grasp mega and giga?

Re:So? (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41428627)

Worst case, if we just include first world people, it's only about a 100W per person

Rough engineering estimate, a watt continuously is a buck per year.

For commercial I'm completely unimpressed. That's like the depreciation on my desk and chair, or the dept "free" coffee budget for a month. A tiny fraction of the overhead lighting power, which is a tiny fraction of the HVAC power, which is a tiny fraction of my salary. In terms of environmental degradation, the gasoline I burn to commute is worse than my share of the corporate data center (based on a KWh being about a pound of coal, so 16 pounds of coal per week, and commute four times per week is about 4 gallons or about 24 pounds of gasoline)

For residential I'm amazed. They need to make $100/yr off my mom who doesn't even have internet access just to pay the electrical bill. I donno if they can make $100 of me per year and I'm always on the net doing "stuff". One interesting comparison WRT advertising is "one million page views per year = one thousand dollars per month or about a penny per pageview". Donno how true that is anymore. But it would imply that just to pay the electric bill the average person would have to visit 27 web pages per day, every day, which seems pretty high across an entire nation.

Re:So? (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | about 2 years ago | (#41429065)

Our energy supply is finite, and so our energy usage should be measured in units of energy, not dollars.

Prices are not based on market forces or total costs, they are based on government policies.

And our money supply itself is schizophrenic, as in disconnected from reality. It's value fluctuates by moods, it's continually debased by printing more, it's backed only fractionally, and then only by the good faith and credit of future taxes on today's kindergartners

Measuring energy with dollars is like scoring sporting events by the applause of drunken fans.

Re:So? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429095)

It's value fluctuates by moods,

Sort of how people decide to use apostrophes.

Re:So? (0, Offtopic)

flaming error (1041742) | about 2 years ago | (#41429169)

I will not have my English judged by as infamously poor a writer as you, Anonymous Coward.

Re:So? (3, Interesting)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about 2 years ago | (#41429619)

The Earth receives 170PW of energy from the sun. The sun's total output is 380YW (trillion trillion Watts). How much of that we can capture and use is limited mainly by how much money we spend. So I would say that measuring energy with money makes perfect sense.

Re:So? (3, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | about 2 years ago | (#41430179)

The sun's total output is 380YW (trillion trillion Watts). How much of that we can capture and use is limited mainly by how much money we spend.

Oh yeah. I sometimes forget that dollars trump Physics.

Re:So? (2)

evilviper (135110) | about 2 years ago | (#41430259)

Our energy supply is finite, and so our energy usage should be measured in units of energy, not dollars.

Of everything we have and do on this planet... Electricity is the closet thing we have to an infinite commodity. Until the entire surface of the earth is shaded, all wind ceases to blow, all rivers stop flowing, all tides stop, all mountains have been leveled, all thunderstorms cease to be generated, the mantle and core cools to surface temps, and we've burned every last calorie of biomass... until then, there's plenty of electricity to be had, and the only limitation is the cost of converting the energy into usable forms of electricity.

If anything... Absolutely ANYTHING... can be properly measured in dollars, it's electricity.

Re:So? (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#41430491)

"Our energy supply is finite,"

If you mean "the sun", yes, but that will take a while. Some of our Currently More Convenient supplies are finite.

Well duh (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#41428491)

That capacity is in reserve for bursts of activity, which are when something important happens. "Oh, sorry, can't service your request, we're at capacity now, come back later when you've totally lost interest or forgotten about this." Typical lack of insight by the NYT. They did what comes naturally, write the story about how something is bad and then find a lawyerly justification later. I mean, how would it be if they spent all that money on consultants and then failed to find that things are bad?

Oh, and the little shitty comment "This is the price being paid to ensure everyone has instant access to every email they've ever received, or for their instant Facebook status update" by the submitter is totally uncalled for. That's not what it's about, but it's the reaction the NYT is looking for. Reload these comments at -1, you'll see the submitter's "First post!" comment there. What an idiot.

Automatic provisioning? (3, Interesting)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 2 years ago | (#41428547)

I wonder if the excess servers could be left off, and during rush periods, they could be turned on via IPMI [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Automatic provisioning? (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | about 2 years ago | (#41428731)

I was thinking the same thing. It seems companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon could pioneer in these areas. I imagine the saved electricity cost would more than make up for the development efforts.

Re:Automatic provisioning? (4, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | about 2 years ago | (#41428735)

That's already how many datacenters do it. Still, that capacity takes about 2-10 minutes to come up to speed so you still need somewhat of a buffer. What they need is instant-on servers which the big guys are experimenting with but the problem is not Google or Netflix or Facebook, they run a pretty efficient operation, it's the rest of the business world who'd rather buy an IBM or HP honking piece of metal that converts 20% of it's power to heat before anything remotely useful has been done than experimenting with what they need and could do to improve on such designs.

Re:Automatic provisioning? (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about 2 years ago | (#41429459)

"I wonder if the excess servers could be left off, and during rush periods, they could be turned on via IPMI?"

Of course yes.

But then, powering on a server via IPMI can take everything between 30 seconds to three minutes (discounting the case that any of its partitions need to be checked...).

Now, imagine your mails are stored in a server that is now off. Will you want to wait for minutes to get to them?

Watch this ad and we'll add capacity (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41429111)

"Oh, sorry, can't service your request, we're at capacity now, come back later when you've totally lost interest or forgotten about this."

How about this: "We've gone green, and we keep some of our servers turned off. We'll have the page ready for you once you're done watching this interstitial ad."

so.. why not modern eniac? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428511)

Why not make a room sized server with a kajillion CPUs, host everyone in VMs, and then you can do all the power management in one place, turn off all non necessary CPUs, ramp up as needed.

Re:so.. why not modern eniac? (2)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 2 years ago | (#41428937)

because that would mean absolutly every one would have everything not only in the cloud (a horible idea) but in one cloud security and stability nightamare. one bomb could kill the internet.
but if they do build your suggestion they need to name it the multivac

Gee thanks Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428585)

It's not like we needed that power anyway.

Don Boudreaux summed this up nicely (5, Insightful)

roystgnr (4015) | about 2 years ago | (#41428589)

in this letter and comment. [cafehayek.com]

The most ironic point: "Should we discover (as we undoubtedly would) that tens of thousands of copies of today's NYT were printed, delivered, and sold to subscribers who never read Glanz's report, do we conclude that the NYT needs a new and less-wasteful business model?"

Running out of power (1)

trancemission (823050) | about 2 years ago | (#41428629)

I know of a couple of data centres in the UK which are essentially 'full' even though there is plenty of bandwidth and space. The penalty for using too much power has also increased and enforced more.

To be fair they are in densely populated areas - both commercial and residential.

not bad (1)

ssam (2723487) | about 2 years ago | (#41428653)

so 30 Billion watts for something like 2 billion internet users. That's not to shoddy. Probably similar to the amount of power used at the client end (though that ought to be falling as people move from desktops to laptops and tablets). Global power usage is 15 Tera Watts, so data centres are about 0.2% of energy use.

So, what would do more to save the world, made data centers twice as efficient, or make transport 5% more efficient. Unfortunately if the former that's easier.

Re:not bad (4, Informative)

Qwertie (797303) | about 2 years ago | (#41428873)

Google's numbers are especially tame. 300 million watts (total) is far below one watt per user (gmail alone has at least 350 million accounts [google.com] ). Certainly if you use Google services on your 30-watt laptop, you use more power than Google uses to serve you. According to Google [blogspot.ca] , "in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than Google uses to answer your query."

Since Google offers almost all services for free, it has a strong incentive to minimize resources per user. I expect the paid services are the ones that use the bulk of the energy, but all data centers together are still a tiny fraction of total worldwide power usage.

Re:not bad (3, Interesting)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41429207)

that's how they're designed (from someone who's designed and executed datacentre solutions). I got out of the game not long before the AMD Opteron 4100 series came out (mid 2010), but at 5.83W per core they're a pretty damn smart solution even by current standards. You're talking about server power consumption of WAY LESS than .001W per request. Probably 5,000 requests are processed before the thing drinks a Watt. If my Atom-powered netbook could handle that kind of workload I would be well happy.

There's nothing wrong with datacentres sitting idle, the "wrong" comes into it when people burn 500W on a PC with 19" monitor just to scroll down Facebook.

Sad sad article... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428655)

There are so many aspects left unexplored. Part of the problem is that power is also wasted on inefficient code. Bad abstractions and poor data structures. Reasons schedule pressure and untrained monkeys doing coding in PHP. It is too much focus on the ones running the data centers, part of the problem is who they are buying their software of.

What's more efficient than PHP? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41429131)

Part of the problem is that power is also wasted on inefficient code. [...] Reasons schedule pressure and untrained monkeys doing coding in PHP.

At work we have a reasonably trained monkey coding in PHP. What language would you recommend that is more efficient for a web application, balancing programmer efficiency with runtime efficiency?

Re:What's more efficient than PHP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429321)

If you have a reasonably trained monkey in PHP then a proper setup can help with efficiency. Byte code caching, php-fpm and a reasonable database backend that allow for procedures could save energy. It is not the language in itself that is the problem it is the untrained part. But for some sites a native code like C++ or Google Go could be worth it and loose part of the programmer efficiency. But that trade off is mostly like saving servers i.e. having five servers instead of ten.

Re:What's more efficient than PHP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429763)

Just about any of them. Php is pretty awful, performance-wise. I switched to JSP and got a 50% reduction in CPU usage, along with a rather nice 50ms off my initial page load latency. C# would also be reasonable. Both of these environments are just as productive, if not more so.

Re:What's more efficient than PHP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41430033)

Php is pretty awful, performance-wise

Having used it for a decade, I think PHP is all around bad, but there is one thing that it does that none of the other players even bother trying to do: encourage developers to use stateless design. You know, the way the HTTP protocol was designed to work before we had all these sessions and hibernate and everything else that makes it when I push back in my browser I go somewhere other than where I came from, or makes it impossible to link to trademark pages on the USPTO website because it's all in cache for about 5 minutes before the server decides someone else's state is more important than it is for me to share my search results.

The RESTful design people are working on it, too bad about HTML's lack of support for it and having to kludge your way through every request to cope.

Re:What's more efficient than PHP? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41430223)

I switched to JSP and got a 50% reduction in CPU usage, along with a rather nice 50ms off my initial page load latency. C# would also be reasonable.

Wouldn't that require upgrading to a more expensive hosting plan that supports Java or C#? Wasting money on licenses is as bad as if not worse than wasting money on power. Or what am I missing?

Re:What's more efficient than PHP? (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | about 2 years ago | (#41430301)

Wouldn't that require upgrading to a more expensive hosting plan that supports Java or C#? Wasting money on licenses is as bad as if not worse than wasting money on power. Or what am I missing?

You're missing the part that Java is free and that there is also an open source version. What licenses are you talking about?

Re:What's more efficient than PHP? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41430415)

You're missing the part that Java is free and that there is also an open source version. What licenses are you talking about?

The license for the panel software that the hosting company installs for Java customers, for one thing. It appears from my limited research that the requirement for Java support constrains the choice of hosting provider.

Re:What's more efficient than PHP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41430565)

PHP is pretty awful just because it crazy type unstrict. It will try to make any code compile and do something. What it does, who knows. A minor typo in PHP and you won't get so much as a warning, just odd problems.

Re:What's more efficient than PHP? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 2 years ago | (#41430599)

nothing wrong with PHP, and if you have a small scale system, then there's little to no gain from rewriting it. However....

if you have a lot of systems then a rewrite in the most efficient system you can get will benefit you a lot. This is why Microsoft has said that 88% of their datacentre costs is in hardware and power, and is also the reason why they're migrating back to native C++ code! (yep, bye .NET, don't let the door hit your bloated ass on the way out).

I always said if you want programmer productivity then a script language, like PHP, is the way to go, but if you want performance you need to go a lot more C/C++. Java and C# are compromises that offer you neither enough performance or productivity.

So for you, if you're running multiple servers with your PHP code, then there could be a benefit for you to rewrite it in C/C++ as you'll be able to serve the same number of users using fewer servers. (worked for Facebook after all), but unless you're running 3+ servers, there's not going to be much point in it for you.

Not all DCs are Google or Facebook (3, Informative)

tokencode (1952944) | about 2 years ago | (#41428683)

This article is simply trying to make news where there isn't any. Of course only a fraction of the power consumed goes into actual computations. For starters you need to account for cooling. Roughly speaking for every watt of server power load, you nede to account for 1 watt of cooling energy. This essentially halves the potential efficiency. In addition to that, you need to account for the amount of power it takes just to maintain state when you talking about a data center of that scale. Non-volitle memory requires and consumes power just to retain its current values. Unline Facebook and Google, most datacenters do not have 100% control over the hardware and software being run. Additionally datacenters often charge for power, space, etc and the client simply pays for what they use. In many instances efficiency is not for the datacenter to determine and one could argue that it may not even be in the datacenter's financial interest. Great strides have been made in scaling power consumption to fit computational demand but this is more of a hardware/software issue than a datacenter issue.

google and facebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428707)

spying isn't wasting power

Brilliant definition of "server" FTFA . . . (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#41428819)

A server is a sort of bulked-up desktop computer, minus a screen and keyboard, that contains chips to process data.

Re:Brilliant definition of "server" FTFA . . . (2)

Pieroxy (222434) | about 2 years ago | (#41430319)

A server is a sort of bulked-up desktop computer, minus a screen and keyboard, that contains chips to process data.

Does it means servers have mice?

So much Wastage Today (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428843)

first helium balloons, now data centers. its nice that slashdot is shaming humans today on their wasteful energy practices.

i had decided that i was going to just shoot myself to eliminate my wasteful means, but i guess that would create "waste" as well. people would report the smell, the police would then arrive, news reports, etc.

maybe ill pre-dig a grave and bury myself alive. that should do the trick.

Re:So much Wastage Today (1)

farkus888 (1103903) | about 2 years ago | (#41430063)

I've been working out this exact solution. The problem so far is the amount of energy I've burned through in these various data centers while searching for the most efficient way to dig the hole.

See older article (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 2 years ago | (#41428877)

How much power is being wasted by sites that do not honor "do not track"?

Lovely. (5, Insightful)

7-Vodka (195504) | about 2 years ago | (#41428893)

This is lovely. Let's worry about problems that don't exist, as if we don't have enough catastrophes to worry about.

Power is money. As long as there is a somewhat unhampered economy in the locus of data centers (and there is), then every entrepreneur will attempt to economize power usage. You don't have to worry about it because the entrepreneurs that use power efficiently will eat the lunch of those that do not, ceteris paribus (all other things equal).

Ipso facto this problem will solve itself. Case closed.

In fact, now that I speculate on the possible reasons for publicity like this to be drummed up, it is to campaign for government regulations that will instruct entrepreneurs how they 'must' handle such a problem. Unfortunately nobody can write such regulations because they cannot foresee every circumstance and possibility, much less predict the future. Nobody on this earth can even tell a single other person what ideal type and amount of preparation is for power efficiency considerations. This is why we have economic calculation.

If such regulations are enacted, ipso facto they will cause the problem itself.

Re:Lovely. (2)

Albanach (527650) | about 2 years ago | (#41428961)

Power is money. As long as there is a somewhat unhampered economy in the locus of data centers (and there is), then every entrepreneur will attempt to economize power usage.

You conveniently ignore that power is also pollution. Gas, coal and oil pose current threats while nuclear power has huge costs associated with future care of spent radioactive materials. Western countries have been very slow to price any of these costs into the electricity supply cost.

As a result, your hypothesis that the market will take care of it is flawed. The price that the data center owner is faced with is incomplete. Therefore their desire to save costs is less than it should be in a properly functioning market.

While you believe that government regulation would result in an inevitable doomsday, it is in fact necessary where an industry - in this case the electricity generating industry - has costs outside their identifiable production costs. It's not an infringement on 'Liberty.' to make sure an industry and its customers are absorbing all the costs associated with their enterprise.

Re:Lovely. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429015)

You're fucking retarded. Since there's a cost to the pollution, (dollars per kwh), people will attempt to minimize that cost. If there are regulations, people will simply move to a place wehre there's a lower cost of pollution. It really is that simple. Our environmental regulations are suboptimal, in that the encourage production to be moved to more polluting places, increasing pollution. Note that it takes longer to jump the environmental hurdles in the US than it does to get an entire chemical plant from idea to production in much of the world. Would you rather your plastics be created wtih no enironmental regulation in Asia, or reasonable regulation here? Right now, the regulations make option A more profitable.

Re:Lovely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41430071)

In the big picture data centres aren't the biggest energy hogs or wasters.

As for the price being incomplete, go ahead get the power companies to charge more for electricity but across the board - to everyone.

You'd be hurting more than Facebook and Google.

If you say it doesn't work that way then the whole story and your points are not important or relevant.

Re:Lovely. (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#41429029)

Just steer the discussion to another point of wasted energy. Do you have an idea how much energy it costs to decrypt DRMed media? I'm sure if you add up the extra power needed for all those DRMed media every time they are used, I'm sure you'd get a very impressive number, too.

Save the environment! Fight DRM! :-)

Re:Lovely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429167)

Hey, that's a pretty neat idea! I like the concept of a market responding to price, supply, and demand - along with regulations. Now, if only we had some way people could hear about problems that needed sensible regulation. Maybe we could tell them stories, or they could read something written on a paper to learn about it. Then when they know a problem exists, they could tell their leaders to work on regulation to ensure that the problem was addressed.

Maybe the stuff they read could be shared online, too?

Lovely. More free market crap. (1)

ukemike (956477) | about 2 years ago | (#41429191)

As long as there is a somewhat unhampered economy in the locus of data centers (and there is), then every entrepreneur will attempt to economize power usage.

There is not an "unhampered" energy economy. The energy economy is massively subsidized in several ways. The US government has spent trillions in wars and foreign aid to secure energy supplying areas. Our natural gas glut right now is going to be paid for by future generations in the form of devastating environmental damage, like damage to our water tables. Our continued use of fossil fuels in general will also be paid for mostly by future generations in the form of the costs of global climate change. If the full cost of energy was represented in the price of electricity then data centers would behave very differently.

All things are interconnected. You claim that data centers are a market that behaves rationally, but data center's main feedstock comes from a market that is distorted to the point where it is threatening the continuation of our civilization.

Re:Lovely. (1)

bcrowell (177657) | about 2 years ago | (#41429267)

Power is money. As long as there is a somewhat unhampered economy in the locus of data centers (and there is), then every entrepreneur will attempt to economize power usage. You don't have to worry about it because the entrepreneurs that use power efficiently will eat the lunch of those that do not, ceteris paribus (all other things equal).

This would work fine except for all the externalities, which include global warming, people breathing particulates emitted by diesel backup generators, and a ruinous series of wars that the US has fought in the Middle East. All of these amount to government subsidies for energy consumption.

From your sig, it looks like you're a libertarian. Me too, woo hoo. Hope you're voting for Gary Johnson, who I think is a better candidate than Ron Paul anyway.

But just because we're libertarians, that doesn't mean we have to accept it when other people pump pollution into our lungs or create conditions such that malaria can invade the latitudes where we live. We certainly wouldn't accept it if other people dumped liquid pollution on our lawns, or smeared anthrax on our doorknobs.

And just because we're libertarians, that doesn't mean we have to imagine we're living in some fairyland where markets are perfectly efficient. I would be happy if I could buy webhosting that was energy-efficient and yet highly reliable, the equivalent of a Honda Fit. In a perfectly efficient market, that webhosting would be available, and it would be cheaper than webhosting that was energy-inefficient and highly reliable, the equivalent of a Porsche 911. In reality, you can't buy the webhosting equivalent of a Porsche 911. The reason is partly the distortion in the energy market brought about by government and partly just the reality that markets aren't perfectly efficient.

Re:Lovely. (1)

bcrowell (177657) | about 2 years ago | (#41429299)

Oops, meant to say this: " In reality, you can't buy the webhosting equivalent of a Honda fit."

Re:Lovely. (2)

Qzukk (229616) | about 2 years ago | (#41430061)

That's ok, in my experience with just about all forms of shared hosting, you can't get a Porsche either, you just end up with the equivalent of a Yugo.

Re:Lovely. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429373)

Sorry, this is an idealistic fantasy. In the absence of regulation, more efficient products will emerge when manufacturers believe that it is sufficiently profitable to produce them. Producing more efficient products does not guarantee more profit, and so your claim that "every entrepreneur will attempt to economize power usage" is false.

Also, why do people who favor oversimplified views of the world so often complicate their writings with ostentatious phrases like "ipso facto" and "ceteris paribus"?

"town" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428955)

Lovely wriggle phrase: "a medium-size town".

Most people will substitute "city" or "urban" as they read, from the distinction "town and country". In some places 'city' and 'town' are synonymous, in others a 'town' is too small to be called a city, what other first-world countries would call a 'village'.

Well, it's the NYTimes, so let's try a NY definition.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Administrative_divisions_of_New_York#Town [wikipedia.org]
" The town of Hempstead (Nassau County) has about 756,000 people (2000 census), making it more populous than any city in the state except New York City. Red House (Cattaraugus County), the least populous, has 38 permanent residents (2000 census)."

It's a hideously unspecific term for that hides more than it reveals, perfect for yellow journalism. And we're supposed to take /anything/ from this NYT article seriously?

Re:"town" (1)

Glendale2x (210533) | about 2 years ago | (#41430089)

How many Libraries of Congress is that?

What's the alternative? (3, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 2 years ago | (#41428985)

Take the case of me and Google. My share of their power is about 1W electric (that's usually about 3w thermal).

However, I estimate that their maps and local business info features alone easily save me at least a couple of hundred miles per year of driving. That would be about 10 gallons of gasoline per year, which is 38 W thermal that I'm not burning thanks to the info they're providing. Google provides at least a 10 to 1 payback in energy savings just for this one case.

Meaningless numbers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41428991)

These are completely meaningless numbers. What matters is power per user compared to the power per user spent by alternative methods or other data centers. If the data center is using one tenth the power for running my database that I would by running my own server, then the data center is a boon energy-use-wise - even if the data center could theoretically decrease their power usage even further.

In any case identifying wasteful use of energy in this way is entirely the wrong way to go about it - does the NYT plan on identifying and writing about every little way someone somewhere could decrease energy usage? If the price of energy isn't enough incentive for data centers to use less energy, then either the price of energy is too low or your notion of the value of energy is inflated or you just need to wait a bit while the energy inefficient data centers go out of business. In the first case, the solution is to include the externalities of energy usage into the price of energy through taxes (rather than the current subsidies). In the second case, well, you need to fix your views. In neither case is it relevant how data center operators choose to do their business - that is merely a symptom of the underlying forces.

This is why altruistic energy saving is pointless - if your decrease in consumption does not result in a decrease in dirty energy production, then you have done precisely nothing to help the environment. All you have done is decrease the price of energy by enough so that someone else is willing to use the energy that you didn't use at that price. Conservation does not save energy, it only saves you money and decreases the price of energy for other people. The latter point might actually be a pretty nice thing to do - people in the third world certainly have a pressing need for cheaper energy. It just doesn't help the environment.

For conservation to make any difference to net energy use you need to conserve so much that oil can be shooting out of the ground yet no one wants it because they don't have any use for more energy. Never going to happen! The only solutions are to increase the price of energy to the point where people won't want to use that oil shooting out of the ground because of the tax expense (cap and trade does this, banning use of oil does too) or to come up with another way of producing energy that isn't dirty and is cheaper than oil. The first solution isn't going to make you any friends as a politician and it only works if almost everyone in the world is in on it (never going to happen!). The second solution is the only hope if you want to avoid more CO2 release. Though I guess at the point that we are all drowning in rising oceans perhaps there will be enough will to really make the first solution work. I doubt it, though - a third alternative is geoengineering, which will be necessary anyway at that point. Feel like rolling those dice?

I'm part of the problem. (4, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | about 2 years ago | (#41428993)

I'm part of the problem. Wish I wasn't, but I don't seem to have any choice.

I run a small web site, and if it goes down, there are various consequences in my personal and professional life that can be extremely annoying and embarrassing. To stay sane, I need the site to have good uptime. Over the years, this has caused me to gradually migrate to more and more expensive webhosting, now ~$100/mo.

The average load on my dedicated server is extremely low, so it's basically like one of the extremely wasteful boxes described in TFA. My site is basically I/O-intensive: I serve big PDF files. In terms of CPU, I'm sure the site would run fine on a low-end ARM, or as one of a dozen sites running off of the same Celeron chip. So by comparison with either of those hypothetical, energy-efficient setups, virtually all of the electrical power is being wasted. I'm a small fry, but there are millions of sites like mine, so I'm sure it adds up. (It would be interesting to know how much of total server-center power consumption comes from the "long tails" of the distribution such as Google and Facebook, and what percentage from cottage industries like me.)

There are basically two problems. (1) Nobody will sell me high-reliability webhosting on low-end hardware. The only way to get energy-efficient hardware is to get cheap webhosting. I've tried cheap webhosting. Cheap webhosts have low reliability and nonexistent customer service. (2) Sometimes you get spikes in demand, and you want some excess capacity to be able to handle it without crashing the server. Maybe you get slashdotted. Actually, in my case one thing that has been a problem is that some people apparently run IE plugins that are supposed to accelerate large downloads, by opening multiple connections with the server. When these people hit my server and download a large PDF, the effect is very much like a DOS attack. My logs show one IP address using 300 Mb of throughput to download a 3 Mb PDF. I've written scripts that lock these bozos out ASAP, but on a low-end machine, these events would bring my server to its knees instantly.

Re:I'm part of the problem. (1)

rvw (755107) | about 2 years ago | (#41429573)

There are basically two problems. (1) Nobody will sell me high-reliability webhosting on low-end hardware. The only way to get energy-efficient hardware is to get cheap webhosting. I've tried cheap webhosting. Cheap webhosts have low reliability and nonexistent customer service. (2) Sometimes you get spikes in demand, and you want some excess capacity to be able to handle it without crashing the server. Maybe you get slashdotted. Actually, in my case one thing that has been a problem is that some people apparently run IE plugins that are supposed to accelerate large downloads, by opening multiple connections with the server. When these people hit my server and download a large PDF, the effect is very much like a DOS attack. My logs show one IP address using 300 Mb of throughput to download a 3 Mb PDF. I've written scripts that lock these bozos out ASAP, but on a low-end machine, these events would bring my server to its knees instantly.

Have you taken a look at Amazon EC2, S3, and their other services? Post a question on their forums or on stackexchange and describe your situation, and I bet they can give you a solution that is cheaper and more reliable.

Re:I'm part of the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429661)

This sounds a lot like the problem BitTorrent was invented to solve. It has the neat property that the required bandwidth does is approximately constant regardless of the number of concurrent downloads. If only browsers made it easier to seamlessly download small files using bittorrent - Opera implemented this,. but it didn't catch on.

Some BitTorrent-like protocol (if possible modified for lower latency) would also be nice for solving the problem that hosting a site gets more expensive as the site gets more popular. Since this is one of the most common reasons for advertisements on the WWW, it could also lead the way to a more advertisement-free web. But the current protocol is not suited for serving HTML, so in your case it would only be used for the pdf files.

How you can help: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429009)

Figure out how to 1) make computers boot faster and 2) reliably support suspend/sleep/etc. Using free software, of course, and please don't restrict yourself to linux.

Re:How you can help: (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41430425)

Using free software, of course, and please don't restrict yourself to linux.

Which *BSD are you thinking of in this case?

Boot times suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41429041)

Most servers have crap boot times, fix this plx.

Re:Boot times suck (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 2 years ago | (#41430689)

That's why you use VMs and never turn the machines off. Just live migrate the server around.

Wave of the future, man! (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41429053)

Tablets are (apparently) ousting desktop PCs and laptops as consumer devices. These are by necessity low-consumption, hence low-capacity devices (as in, they can barely play an HD video without screeching to a bloody halt), they're certainly not going to be doing any what an 80's admin would have considered big iron work. This would be left to... well, big iron. The infrastructure is already there; thin clients, virtualisation on multicore beasts that can chew through 4k CGI rendition in practically real time, cloud storage and fast broadband. Hey, did I mention the word "theoretically"?

There's your justification. Thirty Gigawatts is what 66 million average desktop computers (at 450W a pop, not including displays) consume. Think about what 66 million netbooks, or tablets, consume?

Asus EeePC (Atom): 40W (according to the wallwart I've got plugged into the side of mine) each. 2.64GW.
iPad: from what I've read, 10W a piece - and the screen uses 6 of that. 660MW.

Sod it, add them together. That's 132 million computers, accessing a virtualisation service for a total power cost of change from 33.5GW.
That's a might less than 132 million desktop machines doing their own thing yet costing 59.4GW *on their own* - not including the aforementioned server infrastructure. Why aren't we doing this?? According to Gartner the number of personal computers in use around the world hit one billion way back in 2008. This is slightly more than significant.

Commence to shootdown citing personal security concerns in 5... 4... 3... 2...

Which is what cloud computing is about (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41429365)

I know the term is horribly abused on a regular basis, but that's the whole point of cloud computing. It looks like a horrible idea because today it usually is, but eventually we'll get used to it and figure out how to make it work most of the time and then we can have a lot less idle resources as they can just be turned off. Even if it doesn't get you entirely out of colocated resources, if it can decrease the amount of hardware you have to have lying around doing nothing most of the time there's a place for it.

Breaking News: Slashdotters Miss the Point Again! (1)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about 2 years ago | (#41429451)

Slashdotters are right - it must be ok to waste power because: 1) It's less than other power we are consuming (or wasting?) 2) it's in the name of progress 3) It's not us who are wasting it This is the same thinking that says that if you have a million dollars, it's ok to just thow $100k in the garbage can. Thank G*d slash-dotters don't run the world. Stick to writing code and keep your opinions out of saving the planet, because there wouldn't be one for you to code in if we listened too closely to your my-math=your-reality reasoning.

Virtualization (4, Interesting)

notdotcom.com (1021409) | about 2 years ago | (#41429463)

This is one major reason that companies (even very large companies with "money to spare") are moving towards virtualization with incredible speed.

I'm not going to go digging for numbers right now, but the statistics show that something like 100 percent of Fortune 100 companies use virtualization, and perhaps 85-90% of Fortune 500 companies.

The larger virtualization solutions will actually take the servers that are idle, migrate them to another host machine, and power down/suspend the "extra" machine(s) that was/were being used during their core business hours.

Virtualization also allows for spikes in cpu/network, and then can take that power back when everyone goes home (a print server, an intranet web server, a domain controller, etc). So, physical machines actually DO get turned off when they aren't being taxed, and with more and more "software defined networking" the interconnects between systems can be scaled and moved also.

Now, I don't know how the big players are using this (e.g. Amazon, VMware, Rackspace, Google). I can't see inside their datacenters, but one would think that something like AWS would have a huge stake in saving power by turning off idle instances and moving VMs. Not only for the power savings from the server directly, but for the (approx) 30-40 percent more energy that it takes to cool the physical machines.

It's also worth noting that larger companies are putting their datacenters in areas with plentiful (cheap) power. Places like Washington state, with hydroelectric power and a cooler average ambient temperature, allow for a huge savings on power right off the bat. Add things like dynamic scaling of server and network hardware, lights-out datacenters, and better designed cooling systems (look at Microsoft's ideas), and there is a huge power savings across the board.

How much energy does the NYT use to print paper copies of the newspaper, distribute and deliver them, harvest the trees and process the paper? Now compare that with the energy that the online NYT uses. Which allows for more people to view the publication for less energy? I'm positive that it is the electronic version.

 

Welcome to the Peak/Average conundrum (5, Insightful)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | about 2 years ago | (#41429485)

This is the same "problem" that faces airline companies, taxi drivers, power companies, cell network operators. Consumers pay for these services by usage and so total revenue is proportional to average use but the costs are heavily skewed towards capital costs and so are proportional to the peak load that you can service. In that case, there's a fundamental tradeoff -- either we have to degrade service when demand hits the 95th percentile (just as an example) or we have to figure out a way to pay for the extra capital investment that's not needed 95% of the time.

There's a few alternatives you can do:

(1) Overprovision and soak it up into the price structure for all consumers. This is what most power companies do -- they build enough power generating capacity for peak load and then charge a bit more per KWH to make up for the increased outlay.

(2) Overprovision and charge extra at peak. This is the airline solution -- they always have service available but under contention the last few seats are exorbitantly expensive. Essentially those that need peak service are paying to leave a few seats open all the time in case they need them.

(3) Don't overprovision: this is the taxi solution. This means that service degrades significantly under peak demand -- anyone trying to get a cab home on a Saturday night in a major city has experienced this. Those that do get a cab pay the usual fare, everyone else waits around a while. This is also the solution that California has routinely deployed for their inability to provide peak power during heat spells -- same price for everyone but rolling blackouts for the unlucky few.

That's it -- there aren't any clean answers when you are making compromises between peak availability and average efficiency. You've either got to pay for the extra capacity when you don't need it or else you have to suffer when you don't have the capacity when you do need it.

The also waste power on spam filtering (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 2 years ago | (#41429693)

Think of how many data centers have dedicated appliances for filtering spam. If they want to save on power they should take some actual action against spam instead of just being reactionary.

The data centers (and to a larger extent ISPs) remind us that spam is an economic problem. It is costing everyone money every day, so that a handful of spammers can make a lot of money pushing fake pills, fake watches, etc. If the data centers seriously want to reduce wasted power they should instead invest some human time and effort into making it more difficult for the spammers to make money. Do that, and everyone wins. Keep filtering spam, and nobody wins.

power (1)

NoNsense (6950) | about 2 years ago | (#41430347)

I'm in the DC industry, we pay for 100% of the power we use, so we only use what we need. True we have to keep the lights on, the servers on, the cooling, and the rest of the support equipment. There are efficiencies lost in power conversion and everything else. We cannot control the idling servers -- that's what virtualization does, it helps move the loads to a common machine and eliminates waste. I get what the article is saying, but a DC normally can't control the customers processing.

Planning for peak is not waste (1)

fikx (704101) | about 2 years ago | (#41430609)

My first thought when I saw the post was: "bean counters strike again: Look at the wasted resources that aren't used all the time!"
having extra capacity to handle peak usage is not waste. Never will be. Making sure the extra capacity is efficient is another question, maybe the article linked talks about that, but I always get riled up when someone sees idle capacity and calls it waste.

So...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41430659)

OK, so they're wasting power. What is it that the NY Times wants me to do? Stop using these companies' services? Get my green on, and start complaining about the effect on the planet?

All these websites are free--I'm not paying for what they waste. I'm not investing in them. If they want to waste power, that's their poor cost-management. It seems like a no-brainer to look at where money is being wasted and try to fix that.

We're not short on electricity and having power outages all the time. And again, they're paying for the power. What should we do if they were twice as efficient? Shut down 15 nuclear plants?

Really though, I would like to see more server-side processing and a lot less flash. I'm tired of websites (news sites being the worst offenders) that have 20 flash ads, especially the ones that tie up way too much CPU time for something like a button...that opens a link. Or a mouseover. No idea how many useless conditional statements and random loops are going on there.

Also, NY Times is writing about how bad data centers are, when a huge fraction their business is dependent on these data centers being always available so people can get breaking news from them.

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