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Never Underestimate the Power of a Bad Idea

Never Underestimate the Power of a Bad IdeaHow many times in our lives have we seen an obviously bad idea that a large number of people choose to enthusiastically embrace despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary? Those plastic “Croc” shoes, bad idea, but you see them everywhere. Facial piercing. Bad idea—unless you want to look like you fell into a tackle box—but I see folks all the time with enough pieces of metal affixed to their bodies to make them the equivalent of Pinhead from Hellraiser. How about my personal favorite, electric cars? Forty miles to the charge unless you want to listen to the radio, turn up the heat or use the air conditioning? In this spirit of bad following bad, I was reading an article describing how California’s—a whole state government that has never met a bad idea it didn’t like—new law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is going to raise data center operational costs.

Despite the fact the U.S. carbon emissions continue to trend downward, the good citizens of Golden State chose to provide us all with a lesson in futility and passed a law dictating that the state reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This means that businesses emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2 per year must obtain “allowances” for any amounts over that threshold at a rate of $13 per metric ton (although this amount is expected to vary based on the state’s very own cap and trade market). So, you may ask, what does this ill-advised attempt at killing off conventional power plants that use—gasp—fossil fuels have to do with my data center? Well, since your data center probably obtains its electricity from one of these climate killing monstrosities, and they are going to have to pay this new “energy tax”, guess who’s going to have those added costs passed on to them?

In elaborating on California’s actions, the author points out that unfortunately no data center operator is safe since new rules proposed by the EPA will help spread this power dystopia to data centers across the country. As they say, misery loves company. Perhaps to make everyone feel better, the author points to a recent article in the Data Center Journal which stated that, “…for data centers this policy clearly translates into higher operating expenses, although on the “upside”, it could make certain energy-efficiency improvements seem more economical”. So there’s that. Apparently, if you are one of those data center operators that hasn’t already instituted measures like virtualization, upgrading to the latest generation hardware, or hot and cold aisle cooling this should all come as good news. For the rest of you, the only solution appears to be increasing the power expense line on the old operational budget. CFO’s love that.

How about this? Eliminate waste. Instead of rewarding someone with 250,000 square feet of data center space powered by cow poo and solar panels, let’s have an industry focus on coming up with a more efficient way to build in smaller than 250,000 square foot increments? For all of Al Gore’s puffery, the world could do without his waste of 36.6 million hits worth of storage and compute waste on “Al Gore climate” (Category 6 hurricane?—didn’t thing so). The fact is that policies like California’s are nothing more than politicians picking winners (aligned with their pocket books) and losers (enemies of their core voting blocks). Too bad the true green conversation about eliminating waste cannot occur because of the circus tent around this steaming pile.

For the incredulous amongst you, let California and the EPA’s efforts be a lesson to you. Obviously, no idea can be bad enough that it won’t galvanize it’s own collection of fervent adherents. Perhaps we really shouldn’t be surprised by all of this. You really can’t underestimate the power of a bad idea. The other day I was stopped at an intersection next to a guy driving a Chevy Volt who had a pierced lip, nose and eyelid. I’ll bet he was wearing Crocs.