Active Copper Market Helps Reduce Power Consumption in the Data Center

Recent Increases in Power Cost Creating Concern and Changing Architectures in The Cloud

Most Cloud data center designs assume small increases in power costs over the life of a facility. In 2022, Cloud operators struggled to increase power to some facilities, especially in large metro areas, and already played out their cheap power options by locating massive facilities in rural areas and near cheap power sources. Things have changed quickly in 2022, with power costs increasing rapidly and sometimes faster than inflation

Historical data center consumption was less than10 kW per rack. However, when we add the drive toward virtualization and accelerators to support AI/ML and HPC, power can easily exceed 20 kW per rack. In power-constrained locations, this has caused operators to remove equipment racks, leaving a significant amount of empty floor space because they hit their power cap.

The current inflationary pressures on power and real concerns over power availability are causing cloud customers to re-evaluate basic power assumptions. Power costs will continue to rise faster over the next several years than at any time during the build out of the Cloud. As a result, our Cloud customer interviews indicate power will be a significant design factor and a more important criterion for 2023-2024 build outs.

Volume of data/information created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide from 2010 to 2020, with forecasts from 2021 to 2025

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Data center build outs will be different going forward. Cloud providers will adjust their locations and designs to a new world where power is not guaranteed, and costs may vary significantly amongst regions and countries. We should look at how Japan built its data centers as a guide. Because of limited, and expensive power, many Japanese data centers exist in the pacific northwest of the United States and Canada, not Japan.

While Cloud providers adjust regional preferences, the equipment inside becomes increasingly essential. This is especially true with AI/ML workloads which typically need much more power per rack. Cabling is an area that can help contribute to reducing power consumption.

We expect ACC cables to become an increasing portion of connectivity as servers move towards 100 Gbps and higher speeds. As a result, ACC can play an important role in saving power budgets. When talking about massive hyperscaler facilities, it can make the difference in maintaining the current rack footprint instead of reducing the number of racks. On a bandwidth basis, ACC cables help minimize power consumption and cost as server speeds increase in the subsequent two upgrade cycles. Our forecast projections for server connectivity show that approximalty two-thirds of Cloud connections will be active copper by 2025/2026.

Alan Weckel, Founder and Technology Analyst at 650 Group.