Data centers waste most of their purchased electricity, and NFV and SDN techniques offer power-saving opportunities, says Heavy Reading Insider

July 11, 2013

2 Min Read

BOSTON -- Research shows that data centers waste roughly 90 percent off their purchased electricity, and network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) techniques are offering ways to help optimize all that power, according to the latest report from Heavy Reading Insider (, a subscription research service from Heavy Reading (

looks at the current state of energy management in data centers and telecom networks and highlights some of the data center operators that serve as today's role models for efficiency. It also presents visions for automating power consumption and the challenges to implementation. Finally we look at innovation in software and hardware, emerging standards and potential vendor partnerships to help operators address the challenges.

"After a year-long examination that included commissioning research from McKinsey & Company, The New York Times concluded that globally data centers waste about 90 percent of the electricity they purchase," says Dawn Bushaus, research analyst with Heavy Reading Insider and author of the report. "What's more, the research found, they only use 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering servers to do actual work; the rest is used to keep them up in running in case they need to do work."

But a confluence of factors finally could help both data center and network operators address the issue of wasted power, Bushaus says. "NFV is promising to bring to networking the same benefits of virtualization that have transformed computing, and SDN techniques for automating policy control are emerging," she continues. "Ironically, what we need to move forward are production-environment implementations that can serve as proof that power can be optimized without degrading service."Key findings of Can SDN & NFV Make Networks Less Power-Hungry? include the following:

  • Current architecture cannot support increasing traffic and energy demands

  • Measuring energy consumption is the first step, and data center operators such as Google, Facebook and eBay are the most efficient today

  • Virtualization, NFV and SDN offer the possibility of following the moon with software-defined power

  • The fear of turning equipment off is the main challenge, given that doing so could introduce latency or instability into the network

  • Vendors must cooperate to solve orchestration and management challenges

  • Hardware must be able to support varying levels of sleep states and recover quickly from those states

    Can SDN & NFV Make Networks Less Power-Hungry? is available as part of an annual single-user subscription (12 issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,995. Individual reports are available for $900 (single-user license).

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