May 12, 2015
How times change. In the mid-1800’s, Horace Greely advised young American males—feminism hadn’t been invented yet– to, “Go west, young man and grow up with the country.” Pretty stirring stuff, and all and all, I think it proved to be pretty good advice—the Donner party excepted, of course. I suppose you could still advise someone to take the same path with the caveat that nowadays they shouldn’t take a shower longer than 5 minutes. Today, there’s little to tame between our Atlantic and Pacific shores, so its time to turn our eyes toward new uncharted territories and the US Department of Energy (DOE) has just the place…China.
From my tax dollar perspective, why is the “US” Department of Energy studying China? Did they run out of stuff to regulate here? I had no idea that manifest destiny applied to bureaucrats too! However, from an economic standpoint it’s hard to argue with their recommendation. While we crawl along with a 2% growth in GDP, our friends to the east are expanding at over three times that rate, and they’re worrying that things are slowing down. In terms of data center space, they just can’t get enough. Censored content or not, folks from Guangdong to Shandong province want to post pictures from their weekends and tweet about that new Italian place in the neighborhood—yes, they have them–just like the rest of us. In 2014, raised floor space grew by 19.3% and investment was up 28%; so, if it sounds like the water’s fine and now would be a good time to jump in, you’d be right.
The odd thing about the DOE’s business development recommendation is not that there is a lot of money to be made—at least until they steal your IP and try to arrest you for espionage, but by then you’ll be rich so who cares—but rather, to help them by exporting our energy efficient practices. Let’s turn China green as it were. On one level this makes sense since the average PUE of their existing facilities runs between 2.2 to 3.0. But how big an issue is this for the average Chinese data center operator? For example, in our latest climate “agreement” we committed to reduce our CO2 emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 in exchange for the boys in Beijing’s pledge to maybe have a meeting about it in 2030. Is it just me or does this not seem to be an issue that’s high on their priority list? I’m just saying. And, in a nation that has over a billion people, you’d think that maybe they could have found a couple of folks that know a thing or two about things like economizers and hot and cold aisles. So, despite the DOE’s global altruistic urgings, I don’t think I’d make PUE reduction the number one bullet point when you’re having your PowerPoints translated into Mandarin.
Despite their somewhat shaky rationale, I think the DOE’s recommendation provides us with real life examples of two age-old proverbs: one, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then” and two, “when opportunity knocks, open the door”. So, with that being said, let me attempt to serve as the data center industry’s contemporary version of Greeley by saying, “See you in Shanghai”.