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Insights Insights
| 2 minutes read

America’s Growing Addiction to Data Centers!

We in America are constantly swiping our credit cards to make purchases. In 2022, credit card transactions in the US alone totaled 54.8 billion swipes. That translates to 150.15 million swipes/day, 6.25 million swipes//hour, 104,274 swipes/minute, or 1,739 swipes/second. These figures do not include purchases made using debit cards. According to Forbes, as of March 2023, 54% of Americans use debit cards to make purchases, whereas only 36% used credit cards. If debit card swipes are added to credit card swipes the reported figures increase by no less than 150%, or 137 billion swipes by Americans each year. Some predict global data transmission, including streaming applications, will reach more than 180 zettabytes (about a trillion gigabytes) by 2025.

Data centers are at the core of America’s digital economy. As of September 2023, all data transmission in the United States passed through one or more of the 5,375 operational data centers. If just the 137 billion swipes were distributed equally between all operational data centers, each facility would be required to process 25.5 million transactions/day. A mind-numbing amount of transactions, especially since this only includes credit cards and debit cards and excludes other forms of e-transactions. These other forms of e-transactions are gaining popularity in an alarming rate, and include wire transfers, mobile payment applications (i.e. Venmo), ACH transfers, digital wallets, online payment gateways, cryptocurrencies, peer-to-peer payments, contactless payment cards, and other forms yet to be developed. Even more alarming is that these other forms of e-transactions do not include multiple forms of streaming video entertainment through TV’s, tablets, and cell phones.

With 5,375 data centers, the United States has 10 times more data centers than the next closest competitor - Germany with just 522. Data centers fall into two principal categories: enterprise centers and hyperscale centers. Enterprise data centers typically serve a single organization, serve its needs only, and contain less than 5,000 servers, whether on or off premises. Major users of data, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, and Meta (i.e. Facebook), are building enormous data centers, known as hyperscale data centers. By definition, hyperscale data centers contain at least 5,000 servers and are capable of processing at least 40 gigabytes or 40 Gbps. Some of these hyperscale data centers are dedicated to certain users, while others lease space to multiple users. As of 2021, there were 700 hyperscale data centers throughout the World with more than half of them residing within the United States.

All data centers, include servers, network systems, and storage whether in-house or cloud based, as well as supporting infrastructure. Typical infrastructure includes multiple redundant systems for power, cooling, humidity, and environmental monitoring. Such redundancy is required to ensure data centers remain in operation regardless of outside factors, whether natural disasters or cybersecurity. However, such redundancy necessarily requires large consumptions of power by data centers, which in turn generates great heat, causing data centers to be built in colder climates. Concerns over energy usage, have caused most data centers to measure and track PUE or power usage effectiveness. PUE represents the power used for "non-computing overhead” energy (heating, cooling, etc.) divided by the power used by the servers for “actual computing.” Enterprise data centers typically maintain a PUE between 1.67 and 1.8, (67% - 80%) whereas hyperscale data centers can maintain a PUE as low as 1.07 (7%).

Whether or not they know it, American’s are addicted to data centers. Without data centers, all e-transactions and streaming capability would disappear. This would bring huge portions of sales, purchases, and entertainment to a grinding halt. 


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