Starting the savings downstream at a typical data center can achieve leverage of 10- or even 100-fold in saved energy back at the power plant.
Two-thirds of the power-plant fuel is lost when electricity is generated and never makes it to the data center’s electric meter. Half of this electricity is used to run the data center’s chillers and power-supply equipment. Of the remaining energy, another half is lost in inefficient power supplies and in thousands of fans. Most of the energy that reaches the chips is also wasted because servers are often idle and much of the computation runs processes that aren’t really needed. Bloatware and perhaps inefficient business processes further shrink value delivered to the customer, effectively converting less than 1% of the original fuel. But saving from right to left—terse code, quadrupled-efficiency servers, less and smarter cooling and power supplies—turns those compounding losses into compounding savings.