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New York Times Takes Aim At Data Center 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-wish-to-register-a-complaint dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "The New York Times' latest expose takes on data centers, but the Gray Lady's investigation has prompted its own criticism. While the paper correctly noted that there's a backend cost attached to the storage of photos, cat videos, and old shopping lists, many critics are taking issue with how the Times addresses the issue of those data centers' power consumption. While the Times' contention that the majority of data-center operators prefer secrecy is probably accurate, this industry is public enough that the paper's approach to the article exposes a few puzzling choices. Here are five trouble areas."
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New York Times Takes Aim At Data Center

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  • by sycodon (149926) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:44PM (#41438805)

    Hmmm...where have I seen this before?

  • Please put your accent back on, Mr. Exposé...

    • I imagine it's another new marketing buzzword that the editor has caught onto, something along the lines of the incredibly irritating abuse of the word "reveal".
  • Link to Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:48PM (#41438887)
  • by Sulphur (1548251) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:49PM (#41438915)

    And at the NYT the presses sit idle most of the day.

    • Re:Stop the presses (Score:5, Informative)

      by vlm (69642) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:02PM (#41439137)

      And at the NYT the presses sit idle most of the day.

      I worked at two printing companies in the past, doing IT type stuff. The local newspaper prints spam when they're not printing newspapers, and quite a bit of it. Low quality, however, the "real" printing company had much nicer output. I'm sure that in the mail you periodically get some type of "coupon shopper" printed on newspaper which is pure spam. To be honest, I think that deal might be the only thing keeping the newspaper company afloat. Also maintenance requirements are disturbingly high for a press... lots of moving parts, and they tend to be old moving parts. "Not printing" does not mean press operators are not crawling all over it. Finally, if you think about the content, most of a sunday newspaper can be printed up in advance.... so it is. Presses are a big capital expense, so humorously they probably do a better job than data center operators at keeping the machinery in production. If a press is collecting dust, competition means they're going out of business, and soon.

  • This again? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Revotron (1115029) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:50PM (#41438929)
    I would feign outrage and harshly criticize the submitter and /. editors, but it would be futile because this isn't the first same-24hr-period dupe I've seen here.

    What I would like to see is some editors that actually read the site they edit for. You know, one of those "eat your own dog food" approaches. That way, maybe they might actually notice that it's the same damn thing we already read 24 hours ago.

    Actually, knowing this site, even that's a bit much to ask for.
  • big picture (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:52PM (#41438973)

    This is actually absurd out of context.
    Someone builds a web-based tool that millions use, and consumes X amount of energy.
    Meanwhile, thanks to this tool, those millions no longer drive around window shopping, or purchasing the wrong product/service, or the not purchasing the product/service they need, etc etc, saving 50X the amount of energy.
    Some people will not be happy until everyone (except them) goes back to living in the stone age, logic be damned.

    • by Revotron (1115029) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:00PM (#41439103)

      logic be damned.

      Stop dragging logic into this. A New York Times op-ed writer read something that said servers use a lot of energy and realized that he could save the world as we know it by convincing others to turn off all those whiz-bang servers, computermotrons, and internet kajiggers to save lots of energy. This man has my eternal gratitude! We demand federally mandated computer blackouts at night because that's when nobody uses them!

    • Re:big picture (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PapayaSF (721268) on Monday September 24, 2012 @03:41PM (#41441513) Journal

      Someone builds a web-based tool that millions use, and consumes X amount of energy. Meanwhile, thanks to this tool, those millions no longer drive around window shopping, or purchasing the wrong product/service, or the not purchasing the product/service they need, etc etc, saving 50X the amount of energy.

      And it all gets criticized by a business that puts tons of ink on many thousands of dead trees, sends the result around on trucks and airplanes, and which everyone throws away the next day.

    • by marnues (906739)
      I've read the article and no where is it doom and gloom. You don't have to read your own personal biases into the story.
  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:54PM (#41439005) Homepage Journal

    You can't take anything a news source like NYT, CNN, or any of groups take seriously.

    Reporting about everything is bad these days, but it is especially true in tech. Reporters are some of the most arrogant people on the planet and they are *sure* that they know more than the techs do. They're to arrogant to let someone with real knowledge look over their work and say whether it makes any sense.

    The fact that they would get a good percentage of it wrong comes to no surprise. CNN, for instance, has mentioned Linux on air maybe two times in the last decade. Meanwhile, they can't go two minutes without mentioning Apple.

    Then there was the Fox news story last week that has the phrase "so-called patch" in it. Yeah... patches are so new and mysterious.

    • And techstream main reporting is also poor.
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:43PM (#41439793)

      Reporters are some of the most arrogant people on the planet and they are *sure* that they know more than the techs do. They're to arrogant to[sic] let someone with real knowledge look over their work and say whether it makes any sense.

      Reporters aren't arrogant. Editors demand it. Ever since computers went mainstream, and gadget-collection became a "hip" thing to do, everybody (especially men) have been claiming to be tech-savvy. Apple stores stock "geniuses", there's massive age bias in our industry, and people use utility devices like cell phones as status symbols. The problem is not the reporters: The problem is our culture. Yes, we made our bona fides professionally. Yes, we can run circles around the idiots at the genius-bar, whose credentials include "fixed mom's computer that had that virus" and "member of the computer club in high school". Well, duh.

      But let's be honest here: Most people consider themselves above-average drivers too. Is it any surprise the average person also has an inflated sense of understanding regarding IT? No, no it isn't. And when you're surrounded with egotistical asshats that are all saying "I'm Sparticus!" how is the average person supposed to separate the truly knowledgeable from the posers? See also: Every HR department you've applied for a job with.

      Don't blame reporters for a societal problem.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        Don't blame reporters for a societal problem.

        On the other hand, most reporters these days seem to come from the same pool of communications majors that the marketing people come from. The marketing people are the ones behind most of the problems you mentioned.

    • by DJ Jones (997846) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:46PM (#41439869) Homepage
      Actually, if you read the original NYT article and Mark Hachman's "critique" of it, you'll find that the NYT article technically didn't contain any inaccuracies. Hachman points out (rather bitterly) that the article doesn't talk about recent improvements in PUE, visualization, and other green movements in data center design. While I agree, the article left out some "techy" points, none of this changes the fact that data centers consume enormous amounts of energy whether you have a good PUE or not and that is the point of the article. The more data you store, the more energy you consume and it's on an enormous scale at this point and growing every day. Whether your PUE is 1 or 5, data costs energy and money and that's what the article is about.

      And please, do not compare Fox News with an organization that still has journalistic integrity like the New York Times.
      • by tragedy (27079)

        While I agree, the article left out some "techy" points, none of this changes the fact that data centers consume enormous amounts of energy whether you have a good PUE or not and that is the point of the article.

        Well, the original article says: "Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times."
        Since this is for the entire world, then that thirty gigawatts needs to be considered in that context. That context would be the 7+ billion people in the world. It's about 4 watts per person. Can it improve. Certainly it can, and it is. Compared against things like lighting,

        • by tompaulco (629533)
          Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity,
          But, but, electricity is GOOD! Electricity spontaneously generates itself from pure fairy dust inside your wall. Unlike Fossil fuels which come from torturing cute baby dinosaurs until oil comes out.
          • by tragedy (27079)

            Ummm... Yeah. I think you might have been a little overexposed to that fairy dust in the walls. ;)

    • Let me fix this for you:

      You can't take anything so-called news source like NYT, CNN, or any of groups take seriously. ... Then there was the so-called Fox news story last week that has the phrase "so-called patch" in it. Yeah... patches are so new and mysterious.

    • The fact that they would get a good percentage of it wrong comes to no surprise. CNN, for instance, has mentioned Linux on air maybe two times in the last decade. Meanwhile, they can't go two minutes without mentioning Apple.

      Ever had the impression that a mainstream television news station probably isn't catering to you. Doesn't mean they get a free pass to make silly blunders, but it does explain why they might not be devoting much airtime to stuff about which most people don't give a shit. I'd like to see a more general interest in all things techie - fucking beats celebrities and sports any day. What I don't expect though is for a channel to get much in the way of advertising by covering the Unity/Gnome 3 controversy or the

      • by Jeng (926980)

        A basic cable channel that only catered to technology issues would be wildly successful and would have businesses clamoring to advertise on it.

        1998 might have been a bit too early, I think it would have a much better chance now.

        • by tragedy (27079) on Monday September 24, 2012 @05:14PM (#41442871)

          Nice theory. The reality is, unfortunately, that a basic cable channel that tries to specialize will face enormous pressure to generalize. It might be acclaimed and beloved by its (limited) audience for a few years, but would rapidly end up being just another network full of reality shows about child beauty pageants, weddings and cake competitions. Possibly they'll mix it up and make it about wedding cake competitions for the marriages of child beauty queens.

          • by Jeng (926980)

            I would figure a primarily news channel would be less susceptible to that issue.

            Line up the advertisers first and you won't have to deal with the network trying to stuff shit in there that doesn't belong.

            • by tragedy (27079)

              News channels tend to hold to their news format better, true. On the other hand, the kind of news they report tends to be affected by the same lowest common denominator trend.

    • The issue is not that the mainstream tech reporting is poor. The issue is that the mainstream reporting is poor. The mainstream media reports are not experts on everything and they still report on everything. The reporters often have short deadlines and do not have time to fully inform themselves on the issue. If you are knowledgable on a subject you will see the many flaws in the mainstream reporting of it.
    • by marnues (906739)
      Reporting is bad these days? Was it better at some previous point? And at which paragraph does the journalist clue the reader into his superior tech knowledge?
  • Vested Interest (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Monday September 24, 2012 @12:55PM (#41439015)
    New York Times is a newspaper. Data centers host websites. The rumour mill on various social websites and in-depth analysis on various Wiki projects doesn't really leave newspapers with much living space. It's only natural that they'd try to tar a competitor that's pretty much obsoleted them.
  • Data Center Warming: A global crisis...
  • Secrecy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 24, 2012 @01:15PM (#41439339)

    It's kind of hard to hide massive power consumption and air conditioning boxes the size of garbage trucks on the roof or sides of the building. It's stupid to think you can hide a data center anymore than you can hide a power substation. They might not be on the map, but it's all right there in public records, and building plans are required to be filed with the local city its built in. Those are also public records.

    Also, greenies have been complaining about anyone doing more than banging rocks together. Remember, 50 years ago, these same people were moving into communes and trying to live off-grid. Of course, as quick as they moved into the communes, they moved back out. Whenever I read someone complaining about electricity use, nuclear power, plastics, e-waste, etc., unless it's in the context of scientific research or a business analysis, I shit can it -- to me, they're no better than anti-vaxxers, climate change deniers, alternative medicine freaks, and those people that crash boats into the sides of other boats while chanting "save the whales". I care about the environment, I recycle, but I'm not going to advocate we abandon modern conveniences and run off to the communes to satisfy some sense of ideological purity regarding the environment. Data centers cost a lot of money -- the electricity and air conditioning often cost more than the computers. I trust that if there are ways to reduce those costs (instead of just offsetting them), businesses that own them are going to migrate to those technologies. It's just good business. It doesn't need a New York Times op-ed piece to shame them into doing it...

    • by mellon (7048)

      Not true. There's a commune down the road from where I live that's been around since before I was born, and a lot of the people who were there when I was a kid are still there. The herd has definitely thinned, but many of the people who left still live nearby, and still pursue a sustainable lifestyle. E.g. I have a neighbor who's a farmer who gave up vegetarianism because he feels it is not sustainable in Vermont, due to the lack of produce in winter.

      This is a bit off-topic, but the point I'm getting

      • Re:Secrecy? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 24, 2012 @02:05PM (#41440105)

        First, I'm not disagreeing with you. There will always be a core of people in any ideological movement that manage to achieve a measure of success, dedication, etc. And good for them; I happen to agree with a lot of the ideology of environmentalism. We should save and reuse, if only because much of our society runs on non-renewable resources, and those that don't can still benefit from reuse. But much of the green movement is about identity, not actuality, and it also makes unrealistic demands. I can live without plastic spoons; But asking me to give up plastic entirely is silly. I can live with a toilet that doesn't flush 8 gallons of water everytime I go pee; I am not going to do my business in a compost heap in an outhouse. There's a certain degree of "one-upsmanship" present in the movement, where people who drive electric cars are somehow better than those who drive regular ones. But when you look at the big picture -- the electric car isn't necessarily any better for the environment. Using less water doesn't necessarily translate to a better environment either -- a lot of cities treat their sewage, separating out the water, treating it, and then recycling it back into the drinking water. Most people don't want to consider the idea that the water they're drinking might have been pissed out only a week ago, but there it is. So using more water doesn't necessarily harm the environment.

        I guess what I'm saying is I'm for realistic environmental regulation and ideology, not wishful thinking. And the NY Times article is mostly wishful thinking -- we needed those data centers today. In 5 years, they'll be more efficient, and use less electricity, because the equipment has reached end of life and been replaced. Asking them to do it now is silly. That's an example of environmentalism that's unrealistic.

        • by marnues (906739)
          No, we don't need those data centers today. We don't need near instant access to caturday videos. The amount of reactionary nonsense here is depressing. If the article placed blame on anyone, it's users demanding unnecessary access to meaningless data. They did an excellent job of explaining how data centers get to be energy hogs and frankly this article could be the catalyst that convinces CIOs to move to virtualized data centers rather than the one server one application wastefulness that many places
          • No, we don't need those data centers today. We don't need near instant access to caturday videos. The amount of reactionary nonsense here is depressing. If the article placed blame on anyone, it's users demanding unnecessary access to meaningless data. They did an excellent job of explaining how data centers get to be energy hogs and frankly this article could be the catalyst that convinces CIOs to move to virtualized data centers rather than the one server one application wastefulness that many places still employ today. Better tech is around the corner and this is how we shift thinking.

            I'm going to have to take away your television, radio, bluray and dvd players, and block access to any access to entertainment websites, sir. In fact, I'm going to have to ask you to surrender your Slashdot account as well -- it's possible you could be using it to have fun. You have until 5pm, and then I'm sending the whale lovers after you, as well as the regulars in /b/ who post after midnight.

            • by mellon (7048)

              Blu-ray disks are really efficient. You only spin them up when you need what's on them. Media that's consumed by everyone is likewise not so unreasonably expensive to keep spinning, and might actually be cheaper if it's heavily-enough used. But there is almost certainly a substantial percentage of stuff sitting on racks in data centers, on spinning media, that is very rarely accessed. Encouraging CIOs to try to optimize that stuff into non-spinning, non-powered storage, or simply to reduce the energ

              • Stop making sense, mellon. This is slashdot -- middle of the road, well-reasoned replies shouldn't happen here. You need more exclaimation points and profanity.

    • I shit can it -- to me, they're no better than anti-vaxxers

      Man, you seem to be really hung up on that old tech. Maybe you should consider playing around with microcomputers.

    • by wcrowe (94389)

      I like P.J. O'Rourke's take on this: if you think getting back to nature is a good idea, take off all your clothes and roll around in your back yard a little bit. You'll soon discover it's not such a good idea.

  • Well, obviously, the NYT started with the conclusion, and worked backwards from there. The conclusion: we are bad people, we waste electricity and hurt baby duckies and puppies. The topic really doesn't matter, this conclusion works for every story. They're so insular and out-of-touch at the NYT, no diversity of thought, everyone thinks the same. Thus, it's a surprise when reactions like this happen.
  • I recall the fire at the Fisher Plaza Colo in Seattle July 2009. They got power up using rented generators they placed on the street.

    They were getting fined for have those generators there, but what you gonna do, those customers in your colo need power. But costs like the fine are rolled into the cost of doing business. More like a fee rather than a fine.

  • The article fails to compare the use of data center to the alternatives. People would generally have to get a small home server to get equivalent functionality to what they now get through data centers, and that would be much worse in terms of energy. Furthermore, since energy costs are significant for data centers, the contention that they just let it go to waste is silly; data centers optimize energy usage in a way that makes economic sense. Lots of public policy debates unfortunately focus on supposed

  • Its the responsibility of the local community to design regulations that will appeal to amoral actors such as Microsoft. It doesn't matter if the proper action is intrinsically good-- if it doesn't make economic sense to choose that action, it won't be chosen.

  • Where's Krugman's Blog Post about this thing? [nytimes.com]

    I would have at least expected a damning post about the evils of large corporations wasting money on the backs of the underpaid working man even if it was the New York Times!

  • It's the servers and appliances that use too much power and generate too much heat per square foot. Data centers merely attempt to accommodate that.

    I would support the NYT's flicking off all their own servers though, to save the planet.

  • I read the article criticizing the NYT article and noticed that none of the counter-arguments addressed the NYT's main point: that most of the power goes to idle systems.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... how mad the NY Times will be when they discover that they're printing "the news" on dead trees, and shipping it out in a fleet of fossil-fuel-burning trucks.

  • The basic reason for data centers is to host many companies sites and servers in a single location so that the individual smaller companies don't have to run their own servers and networking equipment. There is a lot of energy used up in maintaining and operating your own servers as opposed to the marginal increase you get by hosting your servers or sites at a large data center. There are considerable energy, money, and manpower savings gained by using Data Centers.
  • The internet is a part of life now, and large data centers are part of the modern world. They use energy. That is not a problem. Like everything else, it would be good to develop more energy-efficient servers, but it's not the end of the world, or a 'dirty little secret'.

    This seems to be just another case of someone who doesn't want real work being done in the U.S. First they chase out all the factories, because they're too 'icky' and low-class, now guys like this want to eliminate all the data centers, and

  • If you think this article isn't terrible, front page lul is the following: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2012/09/23/us/jp-data-5.html [nytimes.com] Apparently Corning now makes diskless, powerless servers built on nothing but fiber. This article is a damn joke. The internet industry is one of the best on power consumptions. Why? Mainly because all companies are aware of the trouble that other industries have already endured and they are intelligent enough to plan around those issues.

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