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Sources of data center energy estimates: A comprehensive review

Reference Type: 

Journal Article

Mytton, David, and Masaō Ashtine. 2022. “Sources of Data Center Energy Estimates: A Comprehensive Review.” Joule 6 (9): 2032–56.

Data centers are a critical component of information technology (IT), providing an environment for running computer equipment. Reliance on data centers for everyday activities has brought increased scrutiny of their energy footprint, yet the literature presents a wide range of estimates with challenging-to-validate calculations that make it difficult to rely on their subsequent estimates. In this review, we analyze 258 data center energy estimates from 46 original publications between 2007 and 2021 to assess their reliability by examining the 676 sources used. We show that 31% of sources were from peer-reviewed publications, 38% were from non-peer-reviewed reports, and many lacked clear methodologies and data provenance. We also highlight issues with source availability—there is a reliance on private data from IDC (43%) and Cisco (30%), 11% of sources had broken web links, and 10% were cited with insufficient detail to locate. We make recommendations to 3 groups of stakeholders on how to improve and better understand the literature—end users who make use of data center energy estimates (e.g., journalists), the research community (e.g., academics), and policy makers or regulators within the energy sector (e.g., grid operators).

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