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Call Me Ishmael

When I was in high school we had to read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick for AP English. Obviously, so have the folks at Greenpeace. For those of you who frequently skipped English in school or have never seen the movie (better than the book, and if you’ve read it you know what I’m talking about) the story focuses on Captain Ahab’s irrational and obsessive quest to catch the white whale, the eponymous Moby Dick. In the data center industry our own version of the novel is being played out between Greenpeace, serving as a poor substitute for Gregory Peck as Ahab, and Apple in the role of our favorite gargantuan marine mammal.

As recently pointed out by Rich Miller in Data Center Knowledge, Greenpeace—a group predicated on the notion that the planet is a great place, except for the people—recently upgraded Apple’s grades on the energy use at its Maiden, North Carolina data center to C’s and D’s from D’s and F’s. These minor upgrades took place after the company clear-cut a small forest to install 200 acres of solar panels. As Rich cogently points out, the folks at Greenpeace not only paid no notice to this effort; they further insist that our friends from Cupertino are using five times the energy the company expects to use at full capacity. Greenpeace arrives at these figures through the use of a formula they developed based upon the development costs or the facility. What the heck do we have the Green Grid for when we have these giants of engineering around to spell it out for us?

Now Apple is free to do whatever their stockholders are willing to put up with in building their facilities, including using whatever “alternative” methods they choose, but if they are implementing them to placate this collection of “green is good, business is bad” enthusiasts they are placing our entire industry at risk.

That data center’s consume large amounts of power in an undeniable fact, but the growth in this usage due to the geometric increases in demand are being mitigated by more efficient site designs and component innovations. Bowing to the demands of groups like Greenpeace who want to dictate not only the amount of energy data centers consume but the technologies that provide it cast a shadow of implicit guilt across the industry as a whole. Our collective goal is to deliver facilities that operate using energy in the most efficient manner possible to protect the environment but more importantly to provide our customers with the most cost effective solutions possible. More simply put, eliminate waste. Eliminate unused capacity, unused space, inefficient cooling, power loss, etc. Data centers are a clear example of where capitalism and “green” are aligned. Elimination of waste equals less cost and better use of assets, a combination that is every CFO’s panacea for the bottom line. Capitulation to these organizations by companies the magnitude of Apple makes the entire data center industry a prime target for future federal regulation.

Organizations like Greenpeace do have their place. In this case, chasing Japanese whalers in rubber rafts. The data center industry is more than capable of dealing with its own issues without the help of agenda driven Cassandras who have no qualms about using false and misleading information to achieve their goals. It will be interesting to see how Greenpeace’s “Ahab-like” pursuit of Apple proceeds since, as those of you who read the book or saw the movie know, things didn’t work out so well for the captain and his crew.