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UPTIME INSTITUTE, LLC

Uptime Institute Annual Report:


Data Center Density

By Vince Renaud, PE and Matthew Mescall, CFM

Copyright 2011 by Uptime Institute, LLC


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UPTIME INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT: Data Center Density 2011 SURVEY RESULTS

INTRODUCTION
Data center owners and operators have been sternly cautioned about the imminent and meteoric rise in the power density of
their computing equipment. And, the drastic consequences on the cost and complexity of power and cooling infrastructure
to accommodate racks as high as 30 kW each. In Uptime Institute field experience, pockets of high-density equipment
have been evident, but not pervasive in many data centers.

Based upon this apparent divergence between the longstanding dire predictions and limited deployments, the Uptime
Institute determined to confirm actual owner experience in operational, high-availability data centers. Accordingly, members
of the Uptime Institute Network in North America and EMEA participated in a survey on power density in their data centers.

SURVEY BASE
Information was received on a total of 59 data centers: 46 in North America and 13 in Europe. Some data centers reported
their information by distinct areas (rooms, pods, etc.), which provided more granular detail. The entire survey base was
1,911,000 ft2 (177,536 m2) and consumed 70.9 MW of electricity.

The North American data centers totaled 1,522,000 ft2 (141,397 m2) of computer room and consumed 54.2 MW of electricity.
The European data centers totaled 389,000 ft2 (36,139 m2) of computer room and consumed 16.7 MW of electricity.

The data centers ranged in size from 2,400-193,000 ft2 (223-17,930 m2). The median size was 29,000 ft2 (2,694 m2), with
the middle 50% of data centers (25th-75th percentile) between 13,600-39,900 ft2 (1,264-3,707 m2).

By industry, 23 data centers were operated by Financial Services companies, 11 by IT, 5 by Healthcare and Retail, 4
Energy, 3 Colocation, and the remaining industries had 1 or 2 sites.

SURVEY PARAMETERS
For this survey, the area component of density is defined as the computer room floor (raised or slab) and includes the
IT equipment, air handling equipment that resides in the space, and electrical distribution in that space. However, since
the measurement of this space can vary from one company to another based on perceived definition or configuration
differences (e.g., air handlers outside the computer room wall), Uptime Institute focused on the metric kilowatts per rack.
To determine this, the survey asked respondents to clarify the makeup of the data center infrastructure. Acknowledging
that many data centers contain a mix of server racks, mainframes, disk and tape storage, and network equipment, the
survey provided an opportunity to breakout these types. Included in the rack quantity were populated server racks, and the
equivalent measurement for mainframes and standalone disk storage. The survey excluded tape libraries and silos, and
racks that were not populated or only contained network patch panelsdue to comparatively low power use. Additionally,
some respondents answered the survey by dividing their data center into smaller sections (high-density servers vs. tape
vs. mainframes, etc.). This allows for a more granular analysis of the maximum average power use per rack.

SURVEY FINDINGS
The median designed power density was 68 W/ft2 (730 W/m2), with the middle 50% ranging from 51-95 W/ft2
(552-1,021 W/m2). The median of the current density (power currently used) was 41 W/ft2 (437 W/m2), with the middle 50%
ranging from 27-48 W/ft2 (288-521 W/m2). A few smaller data centers were purpose built for high-density racks and had
design densities over 150 W/ft2 (1,615 W/m2). When taken as a whole, the responding data centers are using 54% of their
available power, with the middle 50% using between 45-73% of capacity.

The following charts show the distribution of designed power density and data center size. Although the data shows a
general trend that data centers designed for a higher density are smaller than low-density data centers, this only holds at
the higher end of the design density data. That is, only the high end of the data center size and the high end of the design
density are consistent with the general trend. Note that 49 of the 59 data centers are less than 50,000 ft2 (4,645 m2) and
have densities below 150 W/ft2 (1,615 W/m2), with a wide range of size and density combinations.

Figure 1A displays the data in International System of Units (SI) and U.S. units with axes aligned to show the conversion.
Figures 1B and 1C show the data in SI and U.S. units separately.

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UPTIME INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT: Data Center Density 2011 SURVEY RESULTS

Design Density vs. Data Center Size


(U.S. & SI units)
Data Center Size (m2)
0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000
450

4,500
400

4,000
350
3,500
300
3,000

Design Density (W/m 2 )


Design Density (W/ft 2 )

250
2,500

200
2,000

150
1,500

100
1,000

50 500

- -
0 50,000 100,000 150,000 200,000 250,000

Data Center Size (ft 2 )

Figure 1A

Design Density vs. Data Center Size


(SI units)
5,000

4,500

4,000

3,500
Design Density (W/m 2 )

3,000

2,500

2,000

1,500

1,000

500

-
0 2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000 10,000 12,000 14,000 16,000 18,000 20,000

Data Center Size (m 2 )

Figure 1B

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UPTIME INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT: Data Center Density 2011 SURVEY RESULTS

Design Density vs. Data Center Size


(U.S. units)
450

400

350

300
Design Density (W/ft 2 )

250

200

150

100

50

-
0 50,000 100,000 150,000 200,000 250,000

Data Center Size (ft 2 )

Figure 1C

The survey revealed that the highest average power use was a data center in the United States at 9.2 kW/rack. However,
this was reported by a small (13,400 ft2; 1,245 m2), high-density data center that appears to be built for that purpose. For
all respondents, the middle 50% ranged from 1.9-3.2 kW/rack with a median of 2.4 kW/rack.

Maximum kW per rack


10.0

Max: 9.2
9.0

8.0

7.0

6.0
kW/rack

5.0

4.0

3.0
Middle 50%: 1.9 to 3.2
2.0

1.0

0.0
Sites

Figure 2A

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UPTIME INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT: Data Center Density 2011 SURVEY RESULTS

When analyzing the data as a wholeby combining separately reported pods or modulesthe averages declined. The
maximum remained the same because that data center did not report by sections. The median declined to 2.1 kW/rack
while the middle 50% range also declined to 1.7-2.7 kW/rack.

Average kW per rack


10.0

Max: 9.2
9.0

8.0

7.0

6.0
kW/rack

5.0

4.0

3.0

Middle 50%: 1.7 to 2.7


2.0

1.0

-
Sites

Figure 2B

The survey facilitated an analysis of power use per rack by industry. Breaking the sites down by industry, 23 were in
Financial Services, 11 in IT, 5 in Healthcare and Retail, 4 Energy, 3 Colocation, and the remaining industries had 1 or 2
sites. The previously discussed 9.2-kW/rack data center was the only entry for the Transportation industry, which leads
all industries. The industries with the next highest maximum average power use per rack were Healthcare at 7.8 kW/rack,
Aerospace at 7.5 kW/rack, and Financial Services at 4.8 kW/rack. The two industries with the highest average power use
per rack were Retail and Energy with 4.1 kW/rack. All other industries were less than 3.0 kW/rack. The complete results
are shown in Figure 2C.

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UPTIME INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT: Data Center Density 2011 SURVEY RESULTS

kW per rack by Industry


10.0
Maximum Average 9.29.2
9.0
7.8
8.0 7.5

7.0

6.0
kW per rack

5.0 4.6 4.8


4.5
4.14.1 4.1
4.0 3.6
3.02.9 2.9
3.0 2.6 2.4
2.4
2.0 1.8
2.0 1.4
0.9
1.0 0.5

0.0

Figure 2C

When average kW/rack was compared to the size of the data center, the distribution was similar to the design density vs.
data center size.

Avg kW/rack vs. Data Center Size


(SI units)
10.0

9.0

8.0

7.0

6.0
Avg kW/rack

5.0

4.0

3.0

2.0

1.0

-
0 2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000 10,000 12,000 14,000 16,000 18,000 20,000

Data Center Size (m 2 )

Figure 2D

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UPTIME INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT: Data Center Density 2011 SURVEY RESULTS

Avg kW/rack vs. Data Center Size


(U.S. units)
10.0

9.0

8.0

7.0

6.0
Avg kW/rack

5.0

4.0

3.0

2.0

1.0

-
0 50,000 100,000 150,000 200,000 250,000

Data Center Size (ft 2 )

Figure 2E

To complement the energy use per rack, the survey gathered responses about the utilization of the racks, based on the
number of rack units occupied. We found that 88% of respondents are utilizing more than half of their rack units. The
middle 50% of respondents were utilizing between 58-96% of their rack units.

CONCLUSION
One of the core objectives of this survey is to provide ground truth perspective and data to owners and operators as
they plan for data center infrastructure to meet evolving IT power and cooling needs. Acknowledging that the data center
industry evolves quickly, the 2011 findings are that 20-kW racks are a reality for a typical data center, but not to the degree
forewarned. Such high density is not pervasive enough to have a widespread impact on most of the surveyed data centers.

Although respondents existing racks appear to be well utilized, there is still room to add equipment. As these rack units
are filled, the power use per rack will increase. Assuming a trend that rack units are filled with higher powered servers
that are well utilized, the Uptime Institute anticipates an increase in kW/rack in our next survey. Nevertheless, this survey
demonstrates that the expectation for 20-kW racks throughout is not manifested. In fact, at an average density of 2.1 kW
per rack, this is far from being true.

In an effort to provide trending data, the Institute will perform this survey annually.

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UPTIME INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT: Data Center Density 2011 SURVEY RESULTS

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2011 Uptime Institute, LLC UI110111-611


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