Power, Pollution and the Internet: What The Good Data Centers are Doing Today

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What a compelling article! IT and specifically data centers are single handedly the cause of waste in energy? The New York Times article titled, “Power, Pollution and the Internet” by James Glanz was recently posted and made some strong claims about how wasteful and terrible data centers are… Many people in the industry have already provided some critical feedback on that article specifically, but I just wanted to stop a moment to take a look at all the good that has come from data centers.

The article quotes history from 2006, which does not a make a compelling story or case, since at least two and possibly three generations of IT equipment have occurred in that time. Kind of makes you wonder what is happening today? I remember 2006, and we did not have ENERGY STAR for data centers or the Data Center Profiler tool. There was no PUE or metrics for the data center, no Data Center Maturity Model, no methods for benchmarking relative performance of the data center, and no ENERGY STAR for Servers. The ENERGY STAR for UPS and Storage, which I just recently wrote about, was only a gleam in someone’s eye, but little else.

I heard Vivek Kundra, former CIO of the US Federal Government discuss proliferation of data centers within the federal government from 2000 to 2010, from a few hundred to over a thousand. Proliferation did not occur because of an innate desire to waste a resource; energy. Services were required and being rendered. It also was the most economical method to deliver those services.

Today, data centers sit at the center of the revenue and expense stream for the modern corporations, most small businesses, federal, state and local governments. It is there because it provides economy of operation; that is, it is the most efficient use of resource to deliver the services needed. Data centers today are the most efficient and economical method for delivering such essential services as: electronic medical records in healthcare, SmartGrid, Smart Transport, and cloud computing. Into the future, cloud computing allows corporations to avoid and eliminate over provisioning, and even extends that feature to individuals or consumers. With the effort in place data centers will remain the most resource efficient method of delivering services well into the future.

Is the glass half empty or half full? There are many involved in data center resource efficiency topic, many of the smartest people I know are in involved in this topic within corporations (specifically Schneider Electric), and consulting engineering firms. I know it is not politically correct but; I have colleagues even within the US federal government promoting and driving the resource efficiency topic for data centers, such as the Department of Energy, the National Labs and the Environmental Protection Agency. There are others from the EU, and Japanese governments who participate worldwide in this evolving topic. The Green Grid has worked to develop metrics and gain agreement globally on the topic of metrics for measuring energy, carbon and water use of the data center. The Green Grid even developed the Data Center Maturity Model that allows the user to develop a roadmap for evolving data center resource efficiency, and compare the best resource efficiencies worldwide. These Green Grid metrics are in the process of being turned into global standards, by JTC1 SC39. Moreover, these standards will be available and distributed electronically, most likely from a data center.

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