If data centre power use is falling, are firms buying too much?

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Evidence suggests that power usage in data centres may be declining, calling into question the historic tendency to buy more headroom than required.

Over-specifying is bad planning, according to Andrasta Consulting founder Nicola Hayes – and could lead to businesses paying over the odds for data centre services.

Speaking at an IP Expo Europe panel session in London, Hayes said an “awful lot” of firms “overestimate how much power they are going to need” and were “reserving power that they are never going to use”. Some customers, she said, displayed a “fundamental lack of understanding of what they are running and how much power that is going to draw.”

Robin Brown, a vice president at Colt Technology Services, disagreed. “That does a disservice to the people who are purposefully reserving power as a risk buffer,” said Brown. “If you know that you have an overhead of power that you are not going to use and are prepared to pay for it you can relax a little. So I think there are very good reasons [to over specify].”

“Isn’t that just bad planning?” asked Hayes.

“It depends on your risk profile,” replied Brown. “We have clients that are nervous about … increases in density so they will take higher reservations of power that they won’t even theoretically be able to use at the moment.”

Brown suggested such an approach was “very mature”.

Derrick Allen, group operations director at Global With, asked whether such an approach was simply “future proofing rather than over estimating.”

Panel chair Ian Bitterlin countered that clients should be taking the opposite view if future proofing. He cited a recent analysis of a “global bank whose applications are going through the roof but whose power use is dropping 10% year on year.” Moore’s Law suggested businesses estimating future power use requirements should therefore plan to use less, said Bitterlin. “But I don’t see anyone taking that approach yet.”

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