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Debbie Downer and the Data Center Industry

Here’s a little existential question to start out your day, “Is it really that hard to be happy?” Now for those of you who are impressed by my linkage of the philosophy of guys like Sartre and our business, let me say, “thanks, I try” but let’s get down to the business at hand. I recently read an article dedicated to the proposition that data center power is “out of control”. After my first thought—“Gee, this guy must be fun at parties”—I began to wonder why he felt the need to cloak the silver lining that is the continued growth of the data center industry in his own personal black cloud.

Maybe some folks just can’t stand prosperity, or live their lives with, as H.L. Mencken once said, “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”. Certainly, the data center industry continues to grow. IDC forecasts that the volume of data center space with continue to grow at an 8.4% compound annual rate (CAGR) through 2018, and a recent Research and Markets report on data center construction projects a 9.3% CAGR for the foreseeable future with a market size of $22.7 billion by 2019. And, for those of you who like to throw around a little stock market jargon, the “fundamentals of our business” appear to be strong. For example, Gartner predicts that there will be over 20 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by the end of the decade, and that extrapolates to a whole bunch of data that needs—wait for it—data centers to store and process it. Sounds pretty good to me, but then I build them for a living.

My personal bias aside, isn’t the increasing need for power a reflection of data center growth? Why exactly is this a phenomenon that should be looked at with ominous foreboding? The world’s economy continues to become more transaction based, and regardless of how you feel about five people sitting around a dinner table with their faces riveted to their smartphone screens—I don’t like it—the “toothpaste is out of the tube” as they say. Thus, data center power consumption is going to continue to increase if economic demands are to be met. My point here is that I don’t understand the point of the author’s argument.

The author wants alternative and renewable fuel sources to be the be all end all in ubiquitous perfection. Not to throw a wet blanket on the author’s wet blanket but cost is an undeniable consideration for any competitive product offering and voluntarily choosing to make an offering less competitive is hardly a cogent strategy. Does this mean: do nothing and keep up the smog plant? By no means, but sprinkle in a dash of realism and some hope in the human spirit. We continue to figure new and better ways to do things – always have, always will.

Another issue that the author fails to grasp is the basic economic concept of supply and demand. If data centers’ power needs continue to escalate, wouldn’t the demand for alternate/renewables grow accordingly, thereby driving for a pretty good paying job? Rather than cast a shroud over the success of the industry because it, and its power needs, continue to grow, shouldn’t the author be asking why these power alternatives aren’t competitive and what are those companies doing to correct the problem? Seems a little bit like the old “I’m so mad at the dog , I’m going to kick the cat” reasoning going on here.

I guess some folks can only be happy by raining on everyone else’s parade.