October 2, 2013
Well, it’s that time again. No not the beginning of the fall. Not your anniversary, or even the start of the new television season. No folks, its time for those illustrious men and women of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to produce their Fifth Assessment Report. For those of you who won’t have time to pore over every page of this momentous document, let me use a quick formula to summarize what the overview and the Associated Press will tell you: Humans + C02= Future Global Devastation. Of course, it will also call for the usual draconian actions that make the Taliban look like a bunch of squishy moderates. You know, wash, rinse and repeat. Apparently, in the tradition of all UN initiatives, the IPCC decided not to let factual anomalies like the “pause” in warming that began in 1998, and shows no sign of resuming (other than in their computer models—see graph below), deter them from providing the red meat needed to keep the environmental community’s hysteria boiling to a frothy lather.
So what does this mean to those of us who should be flagellating ourselves for even daring to turn the ignitions of our fossil fueled modes of transportation each morning? If you’re a Chinese solar panel manufacturer, you’re boosting your annual sales forecasts since this report is going to require a number of large internet data center operators to pay some severe penance to Greenpeace in the coming years. If you are a tree located anywhere near one these firm’s current locations, you probably should start getting your affairs in order. The report’s calamitous findings are also good news for folks—and you know who you are–that spend their time sending self-congratulatory tweets to each other commending themselves on all the things they are doing to make their data centers “greener”, regardless of the cost. I’m sure your CFO has a tweet they’d like to send you too.
It’s too bad that most “green” champions (see Al Gore) have found that they can capitalize on the fear, uncertainty and doubt (aka. The “Fud” factor) cast off by groups like the IPCC to line their own pockets. If you’re really a true green, then you would simply eliminate waste. That will do more for the world than all the “greenwashing” propagated by groups like the Sierra Club combined.
For example, addressing data center growth in an incremental manner is an effective way to reduce waste (i.e., buy only what you need). Most data center providers know this, but many have business models that are the antithesis of this obvious conclusion. Spending $100 million for a building that you may never fill—sometimes reality has a way of contradicting our best estimates—is probably not the best use of a company’s money, but as the saying goes, “when all you have is a hammer…”
This focus on reducing waste also extends to the preservation of resources like water. Depending on a number of variables, water-based cooling may be the “most technologically efficient” way to cool a data center. However, many providers are examining the costs of this methodology–those associated with the 17 million gallons of treated water necessary to cool a 5,000 square foot facility for example–and looking at airside economization as a more effective alternative. Interestingly, unlike the decidedly anti-growth recommendations of the IPCC, many in the data center industry have found that profitability and being green aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, it can be argued that, in many instances, the former is the driver for the latter. Isn’t it nice when no one has to manipulate a computer model to reach their conclusions?
So take heart all you carbon based life forms out there. Despite the best efforts of the IPCC editorial committee to blame us for what has occurred naturally throughout the history of the planet, those of us that are already seeking to reduce the waste in our facilities are safe in the knowledge that this is the real eco-friendly strategy. In the mean time we can all sit back and watch the IPCC and their followers perform their roadshow version of “Chicken Little”.