There's trade-off in cost with using smaller fuel cells to power individual pieces of equipment. Also, smaller fuel cells used at a server cabinet level may be unable to keep with an almost instantaneous rise in server load.
James says that fuel cells can double the efficiency of traditional data centers, and are also environmentally friendly, even when they use natural gas.
The cost benefits are a moving target, though the paper assumes that they will improve as the industry grows.
Fuel cells are seeing high growth, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, in a report last month. Total fuel shipments increased 34% in 2012 over 2011.
Approximately 30,000 fuel cell systems were shipped in 2012, up from 5,000 in 2008.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.