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EPA Reaches Goal On Data Center Study 75

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-plans-to-talk-about-yet-anyway dept.
1sockchuck writes "After initially struggling in its effort to find data center operators willing to share data about their energy usage, the EPA extended the program by a month and has managed to recruit 215 facilities to participate in its program to help the government develop an Energy Star program for data centers. An EPA official says there are no plans to regulate the data center industry."
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EPA Reaches Goal On Data Center Study

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:17PM (#24025667)

    ...yet.

    • From my (very limited) understanding, the DEA are loath to do anything until congress/whatever forces them to grudgingly do something.

      Anyone motivated enough to get the DEA to do anything will be keen to do some regulating. Getting the DEA to do an investigation is just a formality.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by srjh (1316705)
        DEA?

        From my (also very limited) understanding of the DEA, they don't have a lot to do with energy usage and emissions controls.
      • Then we can have War On Data Centers.

        Yeah, sorry I meant EPA but for all the good they do they might as well send in the DEA to to the investigations.

      • by ragefan (267937)

        Hopefully the Drug Enforcement Agency would not be proactive about data center energy consumption. While energy usage is out of their jurisdiction, I can see how it is addictive... always having to plug in just one more server, or had more hard drives to reach maximum capacity.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by WGFCrafty (1062506)
        Maybe in the future the other DEA will be the Data Enforcement Administration and BURN data centers to the ground which commit, or allow people to commit DATA-CRIME.


        Oh, remember the days when the DEA used to put out fires.
    • ...yet.

      My thoughts exactly.

  • by Aussenseiter (1241842) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:17PM (#24025671)

    "I am not aware of any one planning any regulation of the data center industry," said Fanara. "There may be climate legislation at some point, but that's a broader issue."

    Which is political shorthand for "you can bet your ass we'll be pushing for restrictions on data center power usage once the numbers come in".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CDMA_Demo (841347)
      If I was from Control, your data centers would already be throttled
      If you were from Control, your data centers would already be throttled
      Neither of our data centers are throttled, so obviously I'm not from Control.
    • by jhw539 (982431) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:51PM (#24025915)
      The government, with access to regulated utility records, knows exactly how much power a datacenter is using. And the energy star program applied for years to other commercial buildings has resulted in no federal mandates. You're basically pushing a line of FUD for... well no one benefits really. Hopefully you at least get a good Funny mod rating for your efforts to stunt the development of useful data to help the industry.
      • by ameoba (173803)

        Without regard to the sort of content being dealt whith, it's completely irrational to apply any sort of standards to data-center power consumption. A data-center that simply regurgitates static continent is going to have significantly different power requirements than a site that is actively dealing with processing and transcoding user-generated content. Compare Youtube to a high-volume brochure-ware site for an extreme example.

        The best the EPA could produce, without creating an unnecessary burden on hos

        • by jhw539 (982431)

          Without regard to the sort of content being dealt whith, it's completely irrational to apply any sort of standards to data-center power consumption. A data-center that simply regurgitates static continent is going to have significantly different power requirements than a site that is actively dealing with processing and transcoding user-generated content. Compare Youtube to a high-volume brochure-ware site for an extreme example.

          The best the EPA could produce, without creating an unnecessary burden on hosts would be to publish standards for OSes and hardware when idle. Anything beyond that is infeasible - govt mandated requirements to use O(log(n)) algorithms instead of O(n^2) ones would be patently absurd.

          As a first point, the EPA is NOT looking to regulate data centers, just as they have not regulated schools, offices, hospitals, hotels, warehouses or any of the other types of buildings currently in the energy star database for the last decade or two.

          Secondly, typically 37-50% of a data center's power usage goes to support systems: the cooling, UPS, and humidity control. Using the common metric PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness, or the SI-EER if you want to use the Uptime Institute's less smelly nomenclature)

        • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

          The Energy Star program needs to establish a program for computer power supplies hands-down, and regulate it. That is the only way to make things work, and it isn't that hard.

          As for Energy Star buildings (and speaking as an Energy Star Partner on that one), there might not be direct regulation by the EPA from that, but it did help the push for state energy efficiency codes.

          The problem with making emergy efficiency benchmarks for Data Centers is that it is very difficult to provide prescriptive guidelines a

          • by jhw539 (982431)
            Intel is actually making a good push at moving the market to more efficient power supplies. That is going to happen. Data centers can be benchmarked, it's not simple but over the last few years we've developed some good metrics. Of course, prescriptive codes will probably never be applied - even California has not applied it's prescriptive codes to industrial spaces in the 30 odd years they been around. And if efficiency runs counter to reliability you need to fire your engineer. I know that does not have t
      • Useful data to help the industry? That's not what the government does. At best, we can hope that they don't completely destroy the industry while they put on the political theater that justifies their existence.

        • by jhw539 (982431)
          Do you have any idea how valuable the Energy Star program has been to just about every industry it touches? Your cheap shot makes you look stupid to anyone familiar with the documented reality of its impact. Improving the information distribution in a market is the best way to maximize market efficiency and having an independent entity (ideally the same as the contract enforcer, to use Adam Smith's terminology) provide the information format and dissemination is the cheapest way to do this.
    • Don't get too jumpy. Obviously a slow steam of volunteers means there's a massive self presentation bias. I don't think offering a card and cookie boquet for any participants (or whatever pathetic compensation/reward they offer) is enough to draw in a truly random sample. If a data center is horribly ineffecient, would they ever volunteer to be inspected? UM NO! But if one was relatively efficient compared to others, they'd be more likely to volunteer. So overally it's going to look like data centers
      • Which will skew the numbers and when they do setup the EnergyStar program and make the equipment you do use seem like your datacenter is not only destroying the environment, contribute to AWG and that you club baby seals to death for fun and profit.

      • by jhw539 (982431)

        The flaw in your reasoning is that I have found over the last dozen or so data centers I've looked at, is that operators have no idea if their data center is inefficient or not. None. They can't even tell if their old Lieberts are less efficient than their new Emerson Liebert units (you'd be surprised), or how their cooling tower setpoint impacts their plant kW/ton. No clue. Never cared.

        The typical "cookie" I've seen offered to sites is information - the data on how their site is performing and the (anonymi

    • No more than the aluminum ore refining industry.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Which is political shorthand for "you can bet your ass we'll be pushing for restrictions on data center power usage once the numbers come in".

      I'm confused. Which faction within the federal government do you think will be pushing for restrictions on data center power consumption... Big Oil, or the coal industry?

  • by lazyDog86 (1191443) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:25PM (#24025735)
    I for one seriously doubt that my flux-capacitor centric data center design will be receiving its Energy Star certification any time soon.
  • if the EPA is not addressing more pressing concerns why are they looking at data centers? I don't mean to be rude or obtuse, but if the EPA is only focused on items that have been industry concerns for over a year, perhaps they are better off just being quiet. This is the first step that would be needed for regulation, and followed shortly after by monitoring... WTF? The government won't as a whole admit to global warming, nor to anything like it... why ... oh WHY would the EPA start getting involved... IN

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The EPA like any government bureaucracy has several components, many of which don't necessarily fall into the realm of highly monitored policy. The Energy Star program has existed since 1992 and pretty much operates under the radar. The fact that the EPA runs the Energy Star program that certifies various components and processes for energy efficiency doesn't mean that there is a coordinated government policy at the EPA to monitor and regulate these components and processes. It is just a small office tha

  • Re: no plans... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by udin (30514) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:30PM (#24025767)
    I share your natural skepticism of public officials' pronouncements, but there is another factor: it is in the data centers' own best interest to analyze their energy use, since it's their biggest cost by far. Since there's a relatively rapid turnover in gear (compared to, say, power plants), the data centers are going to be very interested in energy use best practices and best gear even without a government mandate. And so are the manufacturers of said gear--they also have a fairly short product cycle. They might be a little cranky if the government pushes them, but their customers are already pushing them by looking at instructions/watt as well as instructions/second.
    • Re: no plans... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:32PM (#24025795) Journal

      This is one of those areas that the government does NOT need to meddle. Price and market will fix it. period. go. ahead. argue. now.

      • Re: no plans... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jhw539 (982431) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:56PM (#24025957)
        The government acting as a neutral party to collect useful data is hardly meddling. Next you'll decide to rant about them meddling in pharmaceuticals by funding cancer research. The facts of the matter are that datacenter energy use is very poorly understood by owners and considered a negligible cost of the business. When benchmarked, datacenter efficiency has been found [lbl.gov] to vary by over a factor of two between facilities. Owners don't really know what is efficient - high bills are just part of the business, and competitors aren't willing to share good data on the subject. Hence the need for the government to provide some benchmarks, similar to the flawed, but better than nothing, mpg ratings for cars.
        • by jlarocco (851450)

          The government acting as a neutral party to collect useful data is hardly meddling.

          Why is the government wasting our money collecting data? If somebody finds it useful, let them collect the data themselves. Having a Rolls Royce would be useful, but that doesn't mean the government should buy me one.

          The facts of the matter are that datacenter energy use is very poorly understood by owners and considered a negligible cost of the business.

          The only thing the "owners" need to know is that using less energ

          • by jhw539 (982431)

            The datacenter industry is highly competetive. While there are groups like the Uptime Institute that tackle large scale coordination, it is entirely in the government and society's best interest to offer public organization aid. And the taxes data centers pay MORE than covers the cost (and those taxes will NOT be coming in if they all move to India, a real risk as bandwidth becomes far cheaper than labor).

            I am a consultant who works for and has worked for many large data center owners. I guarantee you that

            • by jlarocco (851450)

              And the taxes data centers pay MORE than covers the cost (and those taxes will NOT be coming in if they all move to India, a real risk as bandwidth becomes far cheaper than labor).

              Well then, maybe the government should raise their taxes even higher. Just think of all the studies they could fund! I'm sure that won't drive any data centers to India.

              Well, they are, but only after marketing, maintenance contracting, staffing, connectivity contracts, capacity contracts, generator testing, airflow balance fo

              • by jhw539 (982431)

                Your comment on taxes is moronic. Please clarify if you actually had an intelligent point.

                Yes. I am saying data center efficiency is more important to society at large than to individual operators. This is a blatantly obvious fact and governments who have embraced it (for example, through the negawatt approach of avoiding capital-intensive new power plant projects used astonishingly successfully by many utility districts) have saved money and improved their environment. But don't let the well documented exp

                • by jlarocco (851450)

                  I'm sorry, but you still haven't shown any proof that this study needed to be done by the government. You can try to change the subject all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that any competitive data center would be aiming for higher efficiency because it directly lowers their costs and allows them to offer lower prices than their competitors.

                  Besides that, if the government isn't going to pass legislation based on the study results, why even bother? It's blatantly obvious that higher efficienc

                  • by jhw539 (982431)

                    I'm sorry, but you still haven't shown any proof that this study needed to be done by the government. You can try to change the subject all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that any competitive data center would be aiming for higher efficiency because it directly lowers their costs and allows them to offer lower prices than their competitors.

                    This just is not true. I work in the industry, performing studies of this nature. The Uptime Institute, 24/7 Group, etc. are not enough to promote sharing of this data between rivals. In a similar arena (semiconductor cleanroom critical environments), I've been paid to do the same damn study three times - but the third and last time it was funded by the government (LBNL) and disseminated publicly (something industry groups, such as SEMATECH, do not do). That is efficiency that saves money on an industry wid

                    • by jlarocco (851450)

                      Data center operators do not know what an efficient system is, just as you probably do not know how your house's energy use compares to similar houses in your climate (unless you utilized the government's "useless" Energy Star database that has led to no regulation).

                      But to money on energy I don't need to know how similar houses compare to mine. Neither do data center operators. It's useless trivia, at best.

                      You express scorn for publicly funded research (what this entire thread is about) and call it wor

          • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

            All investments in energy efficiency have to have a measurable payback. A more efficient chiller system will cost about 50% more than the most basic system, and pay back over 5-6 years.

            But, that basic system can be re-started in under 3 minutes while the advanced system requires 15 minutes. The basic system can be repaired by anybody, but the advanced system requires a specialized technician.

            Suddenly, in order to meet reliability objectives, the data center operator must buy both systems, at a 150% premiu

            • by jhw539 (982431)

              I have seen more than once a big 'ol tank of water more than deal with long restart time issues (which I am not aware of with modern chillers, but could certainly exist if you're using crap Carriers or something in your plant). And payback is an awful way to assess the value of any measure - IRR or ROI calcs are the metrics businesses tend to prefer.

              The most efficient data center design I'm working on at the moment is simpler to maintain than a standard system. And almost anything is easier than laying out

        • > Next you'll decide to rant about them meddling in pharmaceuticals by
          > funding cancer research.

          What does subsidizing a positive externality have to do with legislating a negative externality. They are not only completely different things, but the exact opposite approach (market vs. legislative) to government.

          Where is meta-moderating when you need it...

          > The facts of the matter are that datacenter energy use is very poorly
          > understood by owners and considered a negligible cost of the business

          Wha

      • by afidel (530433)
        Energy Star isn't the government meddling, it's a strictly voluntary program to get a certified power usage metric on a standardized test. In fact I'm surprised someone like UL didn't come out with something like it before the government did, I guess it just goes to show how cheap energy was!
      • by necro81 (917438)
        You do realize that the government has had regulations for the energy use in refrigerators for some 25 years now. They've been lowering the ceiling on electricity usage and efficiency of refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and air conditioners, and forcing manufacturers to state, on a big yellow tag, how much electricity their appliance uses. Creating the Energy Star program provided a means for companies to differentiate their products in a positive way, by being able to brag their products use
    • by jhw539 (982431)
      You're a little optimistic about data center's approach to their own best interest. There has been quite a bit of work done in the area of data center best practices [lbl.gov] and not a heck of a lot of interest. For example, hot aisle / cold aisle is still honestly debated and considered a 'new' idea in many legacy data centers. Power is still quite cheap and very low on the site totem pole below connectivity and reliability.
  • by hawkeye_82 (845771) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @10:35PM (#24025811) Journal

    After initially struggling in its effort to find data center operators willing to share data about their energy usage

    Well duh!! None of the data center operators opened their email.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      If data-center power consumption is that much of a problem then they could install mandatory sysadmin-powered treadmills, killing two birds with one stone: the fat bastards could run all the lard off their asses while lowering operating costs and saving the environment. Don't laugh, many gyms already do it [cherryflava.com].
  • Excuse me. We're from the government. May we come in and measure your energy usage? We have no intention of actually using any information we learn.

    Who was dumb enough to let them in?????

    • by jhw539 (982431) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @11:02PM (#24026009)
      Question: How has the government used the enormous database of commercial building power usage, which is still larger in aggregate than data centers? Other than providing a useful tool [energystar.gov] for setting design goals, what nefarious federal regulations have been spawned by this evil data collection, analysis, and presentation?
      • Are you talking about the same government that has now outlawed the further manufacturer and sale of inexpensive incandescent light bulbs (to take effect in a few years), leaving us with the option of pricey fluorescent ones that are an environmental mercury hazard whenever one breaks? And lets not ever talk about the problems of running your EZ-bake oven with a fluorescent bulb, or your Lava-Lamp, or even trying to find a fluorescent bulb at will not self destruct if you use it as the light inside your ove
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I believe what Ronald Regan said.

          And there is the source of your paranoid excitability. Reagan was a damn actor.

          • Reagan was a damn actor.

            I thought he was a thespian. And not all that great of one. What made him a damn actor? Are you showing some bias issues here? And the rest of them are politicians. And many politicians are lawyers. Pretty easy choice of which to believe there.

        • by jhw539 (982431)

          From wikipedia (although you can drag it from the original bill if you want to): "... when the federal Clean Energy Act of 2007[5] was signed into law on December 19, 2007. This legislation effectively banned (by January 2014) incandescent bulbs that produce 310 - 2600 lumens of light. Bulbs outside this range (roughly, light bulbs currently less than 40 Watts or more than 150 Watts) are exempt from the ban. Also exempt are several classes of specialty lights, including appliance lamps, "rough service" bulb

          • So you want to jump on my EZ-bake over quip (intended for what I though was obvious exateration, didn't Ralph Nader and his lot tell us that our kids couldn't have them long ago anyway?), but choose to ignore the bigger issue of mercury contamination in our homes and landfills, why? And the added costs to consumers (if alternatives were really cheaper the free market would take care of itself)? And the issues of the daylight saving time energy debacle?
            • by jhw539 (982431)
              Because your concerns about mercury are incredibly well documented to be absolutely stupid, since the mercury emissions to the environment from the coal based power grid in the US are far more harmful. Incandescent bulbs are a greater mercury pollution risk due to the coal plant emissions they directly require to operate (versus a comparable CFL), which ends up in and on the homes of at least half the US population, than the trivial amounts used in CFLs, no matter what the nice lady trying to get you to sig
  • yeah right. they are just collecting all this data for shits and giggles.
  • An EPA official says there are no plans to regulate the data center industry."

    right.. They need the data first. Then they will start making the regulation plans.
    • by jhw539 (982431)
      Sigh. Again, why hasn't the EPA regulated any of the dozen or so building types that have been in their Energy Star program for over a decade? Buildings that combined use far more energy than data centers? What would be the possible framework for such a federal mandate? Even California doesn't regulate data centers, and they have the data and have been regulating other building types since the 70's (enormously successfully BTW, leading to the most efficient building stock in the nation and absurdly low kW/c
  • that we couldn't just let go to waste (back into the general fund - they might give it back to taxpayers as a refund), so we've decided to do a study and come up with an Energy Star rating for.... uhh... datacenters! they use alot of electricity - we'll start handing out a shiny gold^H^H^H^H Energy Star rating for ones that don't use so much. This should be interesting.
  • So the EPA couldn't talk the other Federal Agencies into participating with their data centers? EPA has a Headquarters plus 10 regional offices = 11 data centers. EPA has some influence on every state's Department of Environmental Protection = 50 data centers. Almost every state has at least 1 state run lab = 50 data centers. Universities? I'm pretty sure they have data centers and some get money from the EPA. They should've been able to find hundreds of data centers without leaving their own back yar
    • by jank1887 (815982)
      office != data center. They're not talking about a couple server racks in a closet. They're talking about dedicated supermarket sized server facilities.

      Most DOE/DoD labs will have a high-performance computing cluster / supercomputer. That = data center.

      Most data centers have had overall efficiency as a secondary metric. Now people are starting to realize how large a portion of their overall hosting costs are related to inefficient hosting.

      The idea is to make it easy for dumb consumers. An energy

  • TerraPass sells carbon offsets for personal and business use. If you look at TerraPass for Business [terrapass.com], you'll see they estimate something for servers in a data center. I have heard that the number includes an average power draw for the electronics, plus cooling, security, networking, and related materials -- somewhere over 500 watts.

    We're considering TerraPass, though we haven't come to any conclusions yet.

  • Wouldn't it be nice if your rack had 1 big power supply with standardized plugs, that every vendor's kit would plug into, instead of individual power supplies (and tiny screeching fans) for every box in the rack?

    Since the industry has completely failed on this front, maybe it's time for an "EnergyStar Rack Certification" with compliance specs and a cute logo.

    I'm no AC engineer, but maybe it makes sense to have 1 big fan at the top and a standardized duct fitting on every racked unit, helping to pull hot air

    • by jhw539 (982431)

      I am an AC engineer, and it makes a hell of a lot of sense to have a standardized air outlet. But cooling densities are so high that airflow requirements dictate the outlet be about the size of the entire back of the rack...

      And the government DOES NOT have to set a requirement, just provide a rational and well thought out specification. It is appropriate to allow the market to dictate adoption or rejection of the spec.

      • Even a half-assed spec would be miles ahead of today's mess. If anyone comes out with a rational, well-thought out spec that isn't welded to a particular vendor, the market will be all over it like rabid piranhas.

  • Nowhere in the US Constitution is the federal government authorized to regulate the environment. The EPA should be abolished.

  • It's not in the best interest of the government to limit the ability of data centers to collect private data about American citizens.

    There, I said it. ...

    "Knock. Knock Neo ..."

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