Energy crisis pinches hosting vendors

InfoWorld |  Networking

INDUSTRIAL BEHEMOTHS aren't the only ones eating up all the electricity in California.

That state's energy crunch is zapping power-hungry Web hosting vendors as well. And faced with steep utility rate hikes, the hosters soon may have to pass the costs on to enterprise customers, explore energy alternatives, and add efficiencies to their business models.

"[Some Web hosters] have mentioned that they are looking to do price increases this year, targeting high-power-usage Web sites," said Melanie Posey, an analyst at IDC, in New York. "I suspect they will introduce some changes in the way their pricing models work."

California's current energy shortage has highlighted the role Web hosting sites and mega-datacenter operators play in the power drain. Amazingly, a large hosted-server operation can average the same power usage as a steel manufacturing plant. (See our illustration, "Power-hungry Web hosters gobble up as many watts as 10,000 single-family homes.")

And yet for some users, the fear of higher rates may not necessarily turn them off to outsourcing their Web-based operations.

"It's one of the reasons I outsource, so [Web hoster] Exodus worries about problems [such as energy] and I can worry about content," said Dan Leichtenschlag, senior vice president of operations and CTO of CBS SportsLine.com, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Indeed, Web hosters are foraging for long-term, alternative means of meeting their energy needs.

"We are looking at options such as trying to generate our own power through things like turbine generators," said Lloyd Howison, senior manager of construction and engineering at Ashburn, Va.-based UUNet. "Like everyone else, we are somewhat alarmed and not thrilled with the situation."

Hosters may also step up efforts to push customers away from co-location and more toward the managed services model that they have already successfully sold to smaller customers, some analysts predict.

"Co-location is not as predictable as managed hosting," Posey said.

When providing managed services, hosters assume responsibility for running customers' Web sites instead of housing servers that fuel these corporate sites. Converting co-location customers to managed hosting would allow hosters to control their own energy consumption by cutting deals for more energy-efficient servers and enabling load balancing.

A hefty co-location customer, CBS SportsLine.com houses approximately 50 machines each at Exodus facilities in Santa Clara, Calif., and Herndon, Va. The company has the same number of servers at a UUNet site in New York.

Leichtenschlag said the site's usage spikes at more than 700 megawatts per second at peak time, usually during live sports events.

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