Characteristics and Energy Use of Volume Servers in the United States

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Servers’ field energy use remains poorly understood, given heterogeneous computing loads, configurable hardware and software, and operation over a wide range of management practices. This paper explores various characteristics of 1- and 2-socket volume servers that affect energy consumption, and quantifies the difference in power demand between higher-performing SPEC and ENERGY STAR servers and our best understanding of a typical server operating today. We first establish general characteristics of the U.S. installed base of volume servers from existing IDC data and the literature, before presenting information on server hardware configurations from data collection events at a major online retail website. We then compare cumulative distribution functions of server idle power across three separate datasets and explain the differences between them via examination of the hardware characteristics to which power draw is most sensitive. We find that idle server power demand is significantly higher than ENERGY STAR benchmarks and the industry-released energy use documented in SPEC, and that SPEC server configurations—and likely the associated power-scaling trends—are atypical of volume servers. Next, we examine recent trends in server power draw among high-performing servers across their full load range to consider how representative these trends are of all volume servers before inputting weighted average idle power load values into a recently published model of national server energy use. Finally, we present results from two surveys of IT managers (n=216) and IT vendors (n=178) that illustrate the prevalence of more-efficient equipment and operational practices in server rooms and closets; these findings highlight opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of the U.S. server stock.

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