James Hamilton is one of the smartest and most accomplished engineers I know. He now leads Microsoft’s Data Center Futures Team, and has been pushing the opportunities in data center efficiency and internet scale services both inside & outside Microsoft. His most recent post explores misconceptions about the Cost of Power in Large-Scale Data Centers:
I’m not sure how many times I’ve read or been told that power is the number one cost in a modern mega-data center, but it has been a frequent refrain. And, like many stories that get told and retold, there is an element of truth to the it. Power is absolutely the fastest growing operational costs of a high-scale service. Except for server hardware costs, power and costs functionally related to power usually do dominate.
However, it turns out that power alone itself isn’t anywhere close to the most significant a cost. Let’s look at this more deeply. If you amortize power distribution and cooling systems infrastructure over 15 years and amortize server costs over 3 years, you can get a fair comparative picture of how server costs compare to infrastructure (power distribution and cooling). But how to compare the capital costs of server, and power and cooling infrastructure with that monthly bill for power?
The approach I took is to convert everything into a monthly charge. [...]