data center

Study Analyzes Annual Costs for North American Data Centers

Analysis quantifies cost to support 1 kilowatt of compute and identifies major contributors to data center costs

Emerson Network Power, in conjunction with the Ponemon Institute, has released the results of the first Cost to Support Compute Capacity Benchmark Study the latest report in the Data Center Performance Benchmark Series.

The study analyzed annual costs for 41 North American data centers. Costs were reported by participating organizations in four categories: amortized plant, amortized IT assets, operating and energy. In addition, participating organizations reported on IT load, number of racks, average rack density and data center square footage. Using this data, the Ponemon Institute calculated an average cost to support 1 kilowatt (kW) of compute capacity for each of five data center size ranges.

Major findings from the study include:

• Average annual cost/kW range from $5,467 for data centers over 50,000 sq ft to $26,495 for data centers between 500 and 5,000 sq ft.

• Cost/kW decreases as data center size increases, with the largest decrease occurring from the 500 to 5,000 sq ft range to the 5,001 to 10,000 sq ft range (64%). Costs continued to decline as data center size increased:

• In the 10,001 to 25,000 sq ft range, cost/kW were 47% lower than in the 5,001 to 10,000 sq ft range;

• In the 25,001 to 50,000 sq ft range, cost/kw were 23% lower than in the 10,001 to 25,000 sq ft range;

• In the over 50,000 sq ft range, cost/kW were 21% lower than costs in the 25,001 to 50,000 sq ft range.

• Economies of scale were observed in all four cost categories. Energy costs experienced the largest decrease, with a 180% difference between energy costs/kW for data centers in the smallest size range compared to the largest. Operating costs showed a 129% difference per kW in the largest data centers compared to those in the 500 to 5,000 sq ft range.

• Operating costs account for the largest percentage of data center costs across all size ranges, followed by energy costs. Energy and operating costs together account for 80% or more of annual data center costs.

• Cost/kW decreases with rack density. Data centers with an average rack density of 8.5kW had a cost/kW 68% lower than data centers with an average rack density of 4.5kW.

This is the fourth volume in a series research reports from Ponemon and Emerson Network Power providing industry benchmarks and insight into the key challenges and decision points organizations face as they construct an IT infrastructure to support internal users, partners, suppliers and customers in the digital age. The full report, along with other reports in the Benchmark Series is available at


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