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This is how data centers work—in your everyday life!

This is how data centers work—in your everyday life!

Why are data centers important? The report "Energy Use in Data Centers and Digital System", written by us at RISE data center ICE, was recently released for the Swedish Energy Agency. Here we find out how a data center is structured and what it means to your life, as well as positive side effects of energy consumption.

If you're not in the tech industry, maybe the term "data center" doesn't mean much to you? These facilities are essential to the operation of many of the online services we use every day, from social media platforms to e-commerce websites. Simply put, a data center is a building, or part of a building, that houses a large number of servers—powerful computers that store and process data.

The energy is reused.

Data centers contain much more than just servers. There are two main parts of a data center: the "white space" where the servers are located and the "grey space" where all the support equipment is located. This support equipment includes things like power distribution and standby power systems, cooling systems, fire protection and more.

One thing to note when data centers use a lot of energy is that in an efficient data center, most of the energy is used by the servers themselves, and only a small portion of the energy is used by the supporting equipment. However, all this energy use means that data centers generate a lot of excess heat, which can be reused in various ways. For example, some data centers use the heat to warm up nearby buildings through a district heating systems.

The difference in efficiency

There is also a big difference between old data centersand modern, efficient data centers. In old data centers, it is the facility equipment (fans, compressors, pumps, etc.) that accounts for a large part of the energy use, rather than the servers themselves. This can result in a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.8-2.5 or higher. PUE is a measure that measures how efficiently a data center uses the energy in the facility itself, the lower the number the better. A modern data center with highly efficient support equipment, on the other hand, can have a PUE of 1.1-1.3.

There is more to do here.

This means that in a modern data center 70-80% of the energy is used by the IT equipment that stores data or runs server applications. I believe this is a major new area to tackle. How is IT managed? What infrastructure software is used? What power factor do the servers have? What is the energy consumption in standby mode? What programming language is used? How much data is used? How big is the AI model? There are many factors to influence, if we go beyond the data center facility.

All this may seem like a lot of technical jargon, but I want to strongly emphasize that it is important to understand how data centers work and why they are important. As our reliance on online services continues to grow, so will our reliance on the data centers that power them. If we know more about different digital services and how they work, we can choose a service wisely.

How can RISE help?

We at ICE data center are happy to help you if more questions about data centers and energy use come up—please get in touch if you have any questions!

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