UK data-centres use more power in a year than city of Leicester

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The Independent Online

The UK is heading towards energy shortages because of companies' burgeoning use of IT, according to new research yesterday that called on companies to overhaul their IT systems radically and install eco-friendly technology.

UK companies are using vast amounts of electricity to power the country's 1,500 data-centres that support the UK's growing IT needs. An average UK data-centre uses more power in a year than the city of Leicester.

Steve Prentice, the chief of research at Gartner, said: "IT's age of innocence is nearing an end. Technology's clean and friendly 'weightless economy' image is being challenged by its growing environmental footprint."

Power-hungry data- centres could result in electricity shortages unless energy-reduction is made a core priority within IT departments, according to new research from BroadGroup.

Companies using huge amounts of computer power will also come under increasing pressure to cut energy consumption as a result of spiralling energy costs.

"The data-centre is environmentally unfriendly," Keith Breed, a research director at BroadGroup, said. "The IT department has been divorced from reality as hardware costs have come down rapidly while computing power has risen dramatically. However, higher energy costs have not been factored in."

He said that the biggest consumers of IT power - financial services companies, internet gaming firms and internet service providers - may start to look at factoring rising energy costs into prices, a move that could mean the consumer ends up footing the ball.

Mr Breed estimates that a single UK data-centre's energy costs will more than double to about £7.4m a year by 2010, making the UK the most expensive place for IT in Europe.

One of the problems that companies face is that the servers needed to support current IT usage use about between three to four times the power of traditional servers. A similar amount of electricity is also required to dissipate the heat generated by high-end servers. Gartner estimates that energy costs represent about 50 per cent of a company's IT budget over the next few years, compared with about 10 per cent currently.

Hardware companies are looking at tackling these problems by designing technology that can run more applications with less power. However, Mr Breed said companies need to tackle the problem by investing in such technology and looking at better ways to utilise IT in a more efficient way.

Some companies have already moved to improve power consumption related to IT. BT is to include energy-saving equipment at five of its 12 data-centres and is considering ways to reduce its overall power consumption.