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Google Power United States Technology

Data Centers Push Back On US Efficiency Rules 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the rules-are-made-to-be-fought-in-court-for-years dept.
alphadogg writes "Data center executives from Google and other large companies are pushing back against new efficiency requirements proposed by a prominent standards group, saying they are too 'prescriptive' and don't leave them room to innovate. 'This standard defines the energy efficiency for most types of buildings in America and is often incorporated into building codes across the country,' Urs Hoelzle, Google senior vice president for operations, wrote in a post on the Google blog. Data centers are among the fastest-growing users of energy, and setting efficiency standards for them is a welcome step, he said. But he called the requirements 'too prescriptive.' Instead of setting efficiency targets and letting engineers decide how they can best meet them, the amendments specify types of cooling systems that companies should use."
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Data Centers Push Back On US Efficiency Rules

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  • For example, the standard requires data centers to use economizers -- systems that use ambient air for cooling. In many cases, economizers are a great way to cool a data center (in fact, many of our companies' data centers use them extensively), but simply requiring their use doesn't guarantee an efficient system, and they may not be the best choice. Future cooling methods may achieve the same or better results without the use of economizers altogether. An efficiency standard should not prohibit such innova

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 15, 2010 @12:34AM (#31854260)

      No, you're completely wrong because the analogy doesn't work. Browsers need to support specific codecs for so that video encoders know how to encode video. Videos take up lots of space and require lots of CPU cycles to encode. If I know all of my clients support H.264 then I can encode video once and have it only take up space once on my server's hard drive. I shouldn't have to create and store H.264, Ogg Theora, MPEG2, and MJPEG versions just because every different browser chose their own format to support.

      This is the same reason that browsers need to support specific image file formats. I remember when not all browsers supported JPEG (GIF and XBM were the only image formats most browsers supported), so web sites needed to have GIF fallback images. Some browsers partially supported JPEGs and opened them with a separate graphic viewer in another window. Of course there's nothing that says your browser can't support TIFF and BMP, but it damn well better support GIF, PNG, and JPEG.

      But saying that you must use economizers isn't like saying you must use H.264; it's like saying that you must use SSE2 CPU instructions to decode H.264 streams. What if newer SSE4 instructions make it go faster? What if you don't even have an x86 chip in your device? Who cares how you decode the stream as long as you can make it show up without skipping frames?

      So Urs was right, you were wrong.

      dom

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        No, you're completely wrong because the analogy doesn't work. Browsers need to support specific codecs for so that video encoders know how to encode video. Videos take up lots of space and require lots of CPU cycles to encode. If I know all of my clients support H.264 then I can encode video once and have it only take up space once on my server's hard drive. I shouldn't have to create and store H.264, Ogg Theora, MPEG2, and MJPEG versions just because every different browser chose their own format to support.

        While it is a valid argument for having a certain baseline codec that everyone supports, it does not preclude having an extensible codec system.

        For example, Opera 10.5 uses GStreamer on all platforms, which ships with a Theora codec - but you can extend it as you see fit.

      • by RulerOf (975607)

        I shouldn't have to create and store H.264, Ogg Theora, MPEG2, and MJPEG versions just because every different browser chose their own format to support.

        I suppose you could always try to solve codec support the same way Root CA's get into browsers.

        Company A pays browser maker X large sums of money to include support for codec N.

        Web sites B, C, D, and F license codec N from company A to produce content encoded with said codec.

        Not that such a business model would actually work, but perhaps if it did, Google would just buy off all the browsers and open source their codec with no royalty fees, perhaps.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by jandersen (462034)

      I'm in full agreement with Mr. Hoelzle, and I think that anyone who truly believes in limited government would as well.

      Hmm, so your opinion about this is motivated, not by reference to the practical reality, but to ideology?

      Words can be very strange things at times - I don't see any ambiguity in the word prescriptive; it simply means that they don't like the government to tell them to save energy. I'm much more worried about words like "innovation" - as well as your use of the word "limited".

      "Innovation": it looks like such an innocent and positive word, almost like "invention"; however, as far as I can see, where "inventio

      • your opinion about this is motivated, not by reference to the practical reality, but to ideology?

        Yes. To tackle any problem, pragmatism is always driven by some sort of philosophy.

        How can it not be?

        • s/driven/tempered/;

          • Pardon me for sounding like I'm not a programmer, but that expression

            s/word/word

            Is that a RegEx or something like that? Like

            $foo = "driven";
            $bar = RegEx("s/driven/tempered/");
            Printf($bar);

            Is my pseudocode gonna print "tempered"?

            Totally offtopic, but I'm curious cause I see it in IRC all the time and I asked once but I don't think anyone was listening :P

            • by rjstanford (69735)

              Its not exactly regex. Its ed syntax (also used by sed and vi, amongst many other things)... a very basic form.

              Think "command/parameters" where command is "s" (substitute) and parameters will be in the form "from/to"

              A lot of common regex parsers use much of the same root syntax that ed does, but ed commands build from there to create modifications based on those patterns.

      • by wwfarch (1451799)
        If you read the summary you would have noticed the line

        "Instead of setting efficiency targets and letting engineers decide how they can best meet them, the amendments specify types of cooling systems that companies should use

        So prescriptive means they don't like the government telling them HOW to save energy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Fjandr (66656)

        I don't see any ambiguity in the word prescriptive; it simply means that they don't like the government to tell them to save energy.

        If you had read the last sentence of the summary, let alone the article, you would know your conclusion is false. Also, the definition of what "prescriptive" means depends on the context. Were it not for the context that states the government is reasonable in demanding energy efficiency but unreasonable in prescribing exactly what measures are required to achieve that efficienc

        • by jbengt (874751)
          "Prescriptive" has a very specific meaning in this context. It is one of the methods for showing that you meet the efficiency requirements, by showing that you do certain specific things. There are also performance methods of compliance in the standard that are not "prescribing exactly what measures are required to achieve that efficiency". And it's not a government standard, even though many building departments will adopt it into their codes by reference.
      • I don't see any ambiguity in the word prescriptive; it simply means that they don't like the government to tell them to save energy.

        And this is your first mistake. In this case it is not that they dislike the government telling them to save energy. It is that they dislike the government saying you must do process Z using X type of equipment because "it is more energy efficient". Their fear with this type of regulation is that if they find a way to do Z using Y type of equipment that is more efficient than X, the standard won't let them.

    • I made the argument a couple days ago that video codecs should not be directly supported in browsers.

      Entirely different. Given the strong network effects in video codecs, a de facto standard will emerge: at the moment its flv, and widespread usage will be more important that its actual merits. The market does not work well.

      Also, direct browser support of one codec does not prevent browser, or plugin, support of another. Browsers handle multiple image formats fine.

      In this case, it sounds like the regulation is too heavy. There are no network effects, and mandating one technology may prevent the use of other

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I made the argument a couple days ago that video codecs should not be directly supported in browsers.

        Entirely different. Given the strong network effects in video codecs, a de facto standard will emerge: at the moment its flv, and widespread usage will be more important that its actual merits. The market does not work well.

        The large number and difficulty obtaining the various has set digital video back by years - pick one and everyone standardise to it...even if it is bad at least everyone will be able to view it.

    • Don't let your ideology get in the way of your common sense BadAnal. The post wasn't about government or about video codecs. You sound like a fanatic who has been brainwashed. Excessive brain washing has been known to cause faded brain... I suppose your "limited government" doesn't apply to our ridiculously excessive military spending.
  • by crazybit (918023) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @12:12AM (#31854120)
    So they can pull out a law forcing data centers to use the latest iCooling device from brand XYZ.
    • I think Rambus must be helping with drafting this legislation...
    • by Fjandr (66656)

      Brand XYZ better watch out, Apple is probably already drawing up the lawsuit.

    • by MiniMike (234881)

      There are way too many manufacturers of economizers for that to be a reason. I would be surprised if there is a manufacturer of HVAC equipment that doesn't make them. It's basically just a box with a few (usually two) dampers on it, fairly simple.

      I wouldn't be surprised if the reason for the objection is not the economizer requirement, but rather either a move to delay the new version of the standard so they have longer before they have to comply with what I would guess are more expensive requirements to

  • I'm not sure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @12:19AM (#31854156) Homepage
    On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense. It shouldn't matter much how they manage to accomplish this as long as they manage to do so. On the other hand, there are problems with that approach: 1) One might want to specifically not encourage certain approaches if they had other negative results (we'd certainly feel that way about a process that improves building insulation using the flesh of newborn babies). 2) It may be difficult to measure efficiency and other metrics directly. So having specific requirements helps remove that uncertainty. This is one reason why a lot of building codes are so specific. The way the electric wiring needs to go in residential homes is standardized. Sure, you might come up with a better way of doing it. But the probability is high that something will go drastically wrong.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Leafheart (1120885)

      1) One might want to specifically not encourage certain approaches if they had other negative results (we'd certainly feel that way about a process that improves building insulation using the flesh of newborn babies).

      That is very simple to do with a blacklist. And that's how the legislation should have been done. Set the target, blacklist what should not be used. In fact, no need to blacklist, there is already regulation that will deal with most of the problematic solutions, just put some working that reminds people that the other guidelines and regulations are still effective. If there is a need, blacklist some other small stuff. But never whitelist.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        If there is a need, blacklist some other small stuff. But never whitelist

        These building regulations have to be passed into law on a State by State basis.
        Trying to blacklist stuff is like playing the same game of whack-a-mole 50 times over.

        I'm not saying that a whitelist is the best way to deal with this situation,
        but "never whitelist" is a stupid way to do public policy.

        • by profplump (309017)

          Okay. "Never whitelist" is probably overkill. But whitelists should only *only* be used when there are fixed number of allowed behaviors and no significant new behaviors are likely to ever exist. For example, a whitelist prescribing the way in which execute people is probably reasonable; there might be new ways to kill people, but we wouldn't want to adopt them right away, and they're not likely to be materially different anyway. But that sort of legislation is so infrequent that it's hardly worth arguing t

          • "This is not exactly a new idea; it's fundamental to US legislation, beginning with the US Constitution: the powers granted to the government are whitelisted, while the powers reserved by the people have no such limitations."

            This is one of the least observed mandates from the constitution writers for the last 20 or more years. Our federal government has far exceeded it's original scope of power and authority. It's time for a real and substantial change in the OTHER direction.

        • by jbengt (874751)

          Trying to blacklist stuff is like playing the same game of whack-a-mole 50 times over.

          Many municipalities, counties, etc. have their own codes, so it's more like several thousand whack-a-moles. That's why natioanl standards like this are helpful - when adopted locally, they reduce the number of (often irrational) regulations out there.

      • by jbengt (874751)

        And that's how the legislation should have been done

        What legislation?

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Building codes are often standardized because being standardized is itself a safety benefit. If the wiring is using Standard X, the government knows that standard was vetted, its building inspectors know what that standard is supposed to require and know how to look for common failures to meet it, there is a lot of testing of best practices, etc.

      But here we're talking about an efficiency measure, not a safety one, and it's not clear to me that there's any inherent value in standardization, unless it somehow

      • by mpe (36238)
        With environmental things in particular, mandating specific technologies has very high risks of regulatory capture, where the mandate is used to push well-connected products and sectors, even if they don't make any sense by any objective measures

        My First though was along the lines of "Which suppliers and/or patent holders stand to benefit from this?"

        see: "clean coal", ethanol).

        Together with a whole host of other "green" ideas which have not been though through long term (or for that matter blatant fra
      • by jbengt (874751)
        There is no danger that mandating economizers (which the standard does not do, anyway) would mandate any particular business enterprise - they are a commodity product.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by purpledinoz (573045)
      Efficiency rules might encourage behaviour that's inefficient overall. On top of that, they are hard to enforce and are susceptible to loopholes and cheating. The best policy for improving energy efficiency is to increase the cost of energy. Maybe through a tax. This will automatically encourage energy efficiency and there is no enforcement needed. Of course a standards body has no power to do this, which is why I'm wondering why this is an issue that a standards organization should care about.
      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Efficiency rules might encourage behaviour that's inefficient overall.

        Energy Star gives stars to the top percentage of devices (say, 10%, but I'm not sure). So, if you can get a category defined that's you and only you, then you control it. Say you get the 48.6" to 48.9" widescreen LCD TV range defined as a single category. Then you make one each of 9 models that are purposefully horribly inefficient, and submit those results to the EPA, then make one that's much worse than the industry average (and ob
    • by sjames (1099)

      The solution if to prohibit the negative results. For your example, by prohibiting murder and grievous bodily harm, you automatically also prohibit the use of newborn babies' flesh as insulation.

      Unlike many environments, data centers tend to be well instrumented for exactly the sorts of measurements needed. They tend to know exactly how much power is used and for what purpose.

  • by Cylix (55374)

    Everyone has a PUE? It's a rating by which you determine your efficiency.

    I was talking with one engineer who had designed some interesting storage units. He was like yeah, in theory, it has a PUE of 1. Uhhh... you mean no cooling costs? He said, "Precisely."

    It actually uses a very novel method of cooling, but they never went into production to my knowledge.

    This is precisely what they were referring to in terms of too prescriptive in requirements. Through some innovation in varying scales you can produce som

  • by el_flynn (1279) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @12:30AM (#31854242) Homepage

    I don't know about you, but I've become somewhat jaded when it comes to standards like these. Usually, there's one or more parties who stand to gain financially if the standards are implemented (naturally). But when those who benefit are those that impose the standards themselves, doesn't it become somewhat of a slippery slope?

    Where I work, there was this company XXX who was touting some kind of solution to protect mobile phone users; if your phone is stolen, and you report it to the operator, there was some mechanism in place that would lock the phone when it was powered up. This could be done because each phone has a unique identifier, kind of like a MAC address. Problem was, the technical platform was supposedly half-baked and too pricey, so many of the operators rejected it. But then, they got the idea to approach the government - and lo and behold, the powers-that-be came up with some regulation and standards that all operators had to comply to. Best of all -- we had to use Company XXX's technology!

    So the question is -- do the members (or more likely, ASHRAE's Technical Committee members) stand to gain financially by implementing this? I would think so, since ASHRAE's made up of persons in the HVAC and other related fields. Members will gain access to "many opportunities to participate in the development of that technology [ashrae.org]"

  • by matunos (1587263) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @12:47AM (#31854334)
    ...Google just wants to continue using the chilled blood of babies to cool their data centers.
    • by urusan (1755332)

      ...Google just wants to continue using the chilled blood of babies to cool their data centers.

      Are you aware of how amazingly efficient chilled baby blood is at cooling data centers? We have to protect innovation like that!

    • by cffrost (885375)

      Google just wants to continue using the chilled blood of babies to cool their data centers.

      As far as hemocoolants go, this guy's blood would probably work better. [bbc.co.uk]

    • by afidel (530433)
      Hehe, Fluorinert which was used to cool the Cray-2 is also used as a blood plasma substitute so I guess it's possible =)
  • Being green is good except for whenever **I** have to do it!

    • Wow, nice knee-jerk reaction before even reading the summary. They're not complaining about being told to be efficient (it saves them money anyway, so they'll probably do it without regulation), they're objecting to being told how to be efficient. Apparently they think that data center engineers are in a better position to judge how to design an efficient data center than politicians and lobbyists. If you disagree, perhaps you should explain why.
  • Auto headlamps. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TechwoIf (1004763) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @01:11AM (#31854416) Homepage
    The same thing was done in the past. Only 6 inch round headlamps was allowed in cars manufactured and sold in America. It was the best back then, but what happen in the following years is that it stop innovation all together in America and Europe started to make better headlamps. Years ago was the law was repealed and non 6 inch headlamps was allowed to be installed on autos. Took years for America to catch up.
    • by Mikkeles (698461)

      Why would the shape and diameter of the headlamp affect the possible bulb technology and fluting of the lamp?
      The only effect of this that I have seen is that auto lamps now cost $200 - $500 to replace instead of $20 at your local auto supply shop, due to each make having an individual design.

      • by cynyr (703126)
        also the shape of the lamp has been dictated, 6" round. that doesn't leave much for making the lamp spread sideways or any other beam shape.
      • Where do you buy your headlights? I just replaced a headlight on my wife's car. It cost $14. So either you are shopping at a high end auto shop or you are driving a high end car...or you are talking out of your a**. And yes, the headlight I bought was specific for the make of my wife's car.
        • by Mikkeles (698461)

          Was that the bulb or the whole lamp?

          To previous poster: As far as beam spread is concerned, proper fluting has provided a more than adequate range for my needs.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Where do you buy your headlights? I just replaced a headlight on my wife's car. It cost $14. So either you are shopping at a high end auto shop or you are driving a high end car...or you are talking out of your a**. And yes, the headlight I bought was specific for the make of my wife's car.

          A headlight lamp (what you are talking about) is only part of a composite headlight, which is what I'm sure he's talking about. But you did NOT repeat NOT replace a headlight, you replaced a lamp. Or well, you may have replaced a whole headlight, if it was some of the old school stuff we're talking about here, which we call a sealed beam design — the headlight is the lamp, and vice versa, with the entire reflector and lens included with every lamp purchase. During the time period we're discussing, you

          • You're right, I only replaced the head light lamp. I have never replaced the entire headlight assembly (at least on a car where it wasn't a sealed beam design, I did replace several of those). Even with your example, we are still talking $65 vs the OP's estimate of $200-$400.
            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Even with your example, we are still talking $65 vs the OP's estimate of $200-$400.

              Half of the point of my comment was a definition of terms. The other half was that my pickup's headlights are some of the cheapest I have ever seen. A single composite headlight can run as much as a thousand dollars from the dealer, on the latest, greatest, masturbatest luxury vehicles. Even to just buy the Bosch glass/metal headlights for my old Mercedes (meaning, the design and jigs are old, and now they just keep turning them out) is about $1200, and they only have two lamps. Some vehicles now have three

              • You mentioned Mercedes and Acura, both luxury vehicles when new. I looked up a Honda and a Subaru on that site, both were around $100. And as I said, I have never replaced the headlight assembly (unless you count the bulb for a sealed beam headlight) on any car. A friend of mine commented that he knows that when I buy a car I "drive it til the wheels fall off".
    • by Thelasko (1196535)
      This type of thing happens all of the time in the auto industry. Instead of regulating output, the government goes and regulates hardware. Regulating hardware stifles innovation. In some cases it encourages the wrong kind of innovation.

      For example, the British government used to tax vehicles based on engine bore size only. [wikipedia.org] This resulted in engines with small bore sizes and relatively large strokes.

      I work in diesel engines. The government is increasingly pushing to mandate specific [wikipedia.org] emissions [wikipedia.org] technol
  • It is one thing for the gov to say that we need to get our efficiencies up, for national interest. I have ZERO issues with that. The problem is that generally some lobbyists has gotten in there and made it now point to THEIR solution. Sadly, just about every one of those 'solutions' in any gov. response, will cost more and hurt us in the long run.
  • by Skapare (16644) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @05:36AM (#31855544) Homepage

    These economizers that are being referenced are not always usable. They effectively circulate outside air into the data center. When the outside air is too hot, they can't be used. Also, when the outside air has too many pollutants, they can't be used. The cost of having them makes little sense when their usability is low. Other systems could make better use of the investment.

    This is definitely a case where goals, not methods, should be prescribed.

    • by cynyr (703126)

      you will be bringing in some outside air anyways. As a data center is considered an occupied space, it needs to meet the minimum outside air requirements. The economizer just by passes any sort of heat exchanger. so if your OA is cooler than your RA you open the economizer. even if you need to cool it farther, at least you didn't warm it up.

      You know of a data center that is 100% recirculated air? better not have people in it then.

  • Google has it easy Towns bend over backwards to get them to build and locate within their locality. With that being said the tax payers are often stiffed with the "perks" and "Abatement's" that are guaranteed to Google and one of them is usually always the huge cost of power utility and infrastructure that Google doesn't necessarily absorb. With that said, Google should be responsive to the local government and regulatory committees and not be so defensive to them. Its ok to say "bad idea", its okay to say

  • It is rules like those currently proposed that led us to exclusive use of asbestos in many applications such as all of our schools. Because instead of specifying the desired ourcome, they specified the materials to use. The rules should state the end objectives and not the details of how those objectives should be met.

    The building codes are necessarily formulaic in that a high-school graduate building inspector in a small town needs to be able to evaluate if a given structure is being correctly constru
    • by rjstanford (69735)

      Typically, the way that this is resolved in code is that the code will dictate requirements. Shortly after the code is updated, one or more people will submit various details to the city (or whatever org owns the code) to confirm that they meet code. Sometimes the city will do this itself. Once "blessed", they may be incorporated by reference as standard details, and the reviewer/contractor/engineer/etc all know that that part has been independently verified to meet code when used in the manner for which

  • But he called the requirements 'too prescriptive.' Instead of setting efficiency targets and letting engineers decide how they can best meet them, the amendments specify types of cooling systems that companies should use."

    This makes perfect sense if:
    * the government is fucking stupid
    * the government wants to control you

    Because if the legislation merely specified the end state (X reduction in Y), then more and smarter people would be able to find granular and custom solutions, it would be in their best inter

    • by jbengt (874751)
      This is not legislation, it is a private standard that some building departments add to their codes by reference or by amending it and republishing it.
      This standard does not require you to use specific products or technologies. It does have a "prescriptive" compliance section, which is easier to follow and meet. It does also have "performance" sections which allow you to do whatever you want as long as you meet the efficiency goals.

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