The late, great Wilt Chamberlin once said, “Nobody roots for Goliath”. Since at 7’ 1”, he was the dominant basketball player of his era, Wilt had a deep knowledge of which he spoke. Isn’t the data center industry currently walking around in the big guy’s Converse? Here we are, the foundation of the digital revolution that is bringing citizens from around the globe together to exchange knowledge, “like” each other’s statuses and watch cat videos on YouTube; and we are under siege by an expanding pool of “Davids”. Pipsqueaks who chase whaling ships around in rubber rafts, organizations that want to preserve hiking areas that Grizzly bears refer to as “cafeterias”, and, yes, even government agencies with three letter acronyms are all standing in line to give the data center business a collective wedgie. And how do we respond to this collective kick in the shins? By circling the folding chairs for a virtual encounter group to reassure each other that we’re all okay. Guys we need to do a little better than this and we have the ammunition to do it.
While the country marinates in the belief that data centers will soon consume so much energy that no one will ever be able to watch their flat screens again, the good folks at the Uptime Institute have released the results of their 2012 Data Center Industry Survey that provide powerful evidence of our industry’s continued improvements in energy efficiency. In response to the question, “Which power-saving strategies have you deployed, or plan to deploy in the next 12 months?” Representatives of organizations with data centers with over 2,000 servers responded with the following:
- Cold aisle/hot-aisle containment: 78%
- Raising inlet air temperatures: 75%
- Detailed power monitoring, bench marking improvement: 55%
- Power management features on servers: 44%
- VFDs on chillers, CRAH, or pumps: 62%
- Modular data center design (smaller floor plans, etc.): 33%
- Air-side economization: 36%
While these responses are in themselves indicative of our industry’s continued improvement in the efficient use of energy within our facilities, they are more impressive when expressed as a function of the decline in PUE. In comparing the results from their 2007 survey to those of 2012 the Institute found that average reported PUE had declined from 2.5 in ’07 to 1.89 in ’12 a decrease of 39%. These findings are further corroborated by Jonathon Koomey, author of the original EPA report in 2007 that found that data centers accounted for 2% of US energy usage, who found in his 2011 update that the rate of growth in data center energy use declined between 2005 and 2010 at a rate faster than indicated by the original trend line. In other words, despite the recent wave of fear mongering our industry is continually improving in our power usage—even in the face of growing demand.
Obviously this data paints a different picture of that portrayed by the Green Peaces and New York Times. As I’ve stated before, the issue that we face is that, other than we industry insiders, no one knows anything about this information. We have reached the point of maturity within our sector that the industry needs its own body responsible for presenting our industry in a positive light. Maybe it’s the Green Grid or the Uptime Institute or even another consortium with the very specific mission of promoting the essential role we play in world wide economic growth. Our continued success will only be enhanced as end users of data center supported capabilities recognize the essential nature of our products to provide them the capabilities they have come to expect from their laptops, tablets and smartphones. It can also be hindered if we are forced to continually ward off the rocks slung at us by organizations whose common desire is to shackle rather than unleash. In this battle, everyone should be rooting for Goliath.