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Power Government The Internet United States IT News

US Data Centers Wary of Sharing Energy Data With Feds 101

1sockchuck writes "The EPA has been seeking at least 100 data center operators willing to share data about their energy usage to help the government develop an Energy Star program for data centers. Thus far, only 54 data centers have signed up, which suggests that few data center operators are eager to tell the government exactly how much energy they are using. The EPA issued a report to Congress last year on data center power usage, and is already developing an Energy Star program to rate servers. Can a program designed to rank the energy efficiency of appliances and computer monitors be a useful tool in addressing the enormous energy consumption of data centers?"
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US Data Centers Wary of Sharing Energy Data With Feds

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  • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:09AM (#23504720)
    I'm not really surprised. I've seen decent sized data centers (100-500 machines) that did not track their power usage. They might not have any data to share with anyone anyway.
  • by CaptainNerdCave ( 982411 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:12AM (#23504772)
    seriously? maybe someone should point out how little the people trying to regulate these understand about them. i can point to a few other sources of pollution that would be much better to reign in for their practices before starting to look at datacenters: warehouses that are entirely lit 24x7, universities that don't set their computer monitors to "sleep" after several hours of non-use or even leave all of their end-user systems up all-night every night. that's without even turning to the automobile industry
  • Computer data centers use too much energy. Next thing you know, Congressman will be up in arms, hauling data center leads in front of a good public beating, and then passing legislation to tax excess profits. What would happen next? Data centers leave the USA in droves, 1,000,000 jobs evaporate, and the USA loses yet another industry due to a government that is as malicious towards successful enterprise as it is incompetent.
  • by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:30AM (#23505008)
    I have done a number of projects for a number of companies focused on power saving in the data center.

    One company was building a fan control system to reduce the power used by cooling fans in the racks. We just had a Slashdot article about being more selective about load distribution and shutting down systems not being utilized for the load.

    Data centers use redundant power which is more expensive than line power because UPS system are never 100% efficient.

    To top it off, servers put out a LOT of heat. That is two types of load: The power draw of the server and the power draw of the data center cooling system.

    Data centers are a prime target for green work, and I bet with a little development work you could EASILY cut the power utilization by 30%. Upgrading and replacing four older machines with two newer machines will cut power usage.

    Maybe software efficiency is important again as doing more with less power is greener.
  • by penguinbrat ( 711309 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:34AM (#23505066)
    This may be a dumb question - but what's wrong with reading the electric bill for the place? The DC's I've been in or a party too - EVERYTHING connected to the DC or in it, had a purpose solely devoted to keeping the servers up and powered, one way or the other.
  • by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@wayga.QUOTEnet minus punct> on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:34AM (#23505074) Journal
    I hope you're joking

    Data centers have to know how much they're using as they have to have sufficient UPS backup to keep their systems running in the event of street power outage.

    Groups that maintain these data centers also wind up paying the electric bills, so even if they don't know how much is actually in use at ant single point in time, it's pretty easy to look at a few bills and see what the usage over the past 30 days were.
  • "... enormous energy consumption of data centers"

    That is one of the few world problems that is already being solved. Intel and AMD and others are working on the next generation of processors, that use less power: Intel Says Chips Will Run Faster, Using Less Power []. Intel is currently delivering processors built on 45 nanometer rules. (At that size, there are perhaps 1000 transistors in the width of a human hair.)

    They are working on a 32 nanometer process [], which has already been demonstrated. The next after that is 22 nanometers [] and then 16 nanometers [] and 11 nanometers [] as the Wikipedia articles say. The smaller conductor width rules use smaller transistors which use less power.

    At the same time, they will make processors with wider silicon wafers, 18 inches wide [] rather than the 12 inch wide wafers they use now. The smaller devices and larger wafers mean that there will be many more processors per wafer, making the costs go down.

    What these companies are doing is VERY impressive.

    The companies have not been as good at proposing new uses for the greater processing power. Data centers need the greater processing power as well as use of smaller amounts of energy, but where else is more processing power needed? Will grandma's octo-core cell phone of the future not just report the weather, but calculate it? Will games use full ray-tracing?

    I suspect that the greater processing power is needed, but all the needs haven't yet been discovered. To me, that's a very interesting problem.
  • by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@wayga.QUOTEnet minus punct> on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:39AM (#23505178) Journal
    An HPC cluster can easily consume 20+KW per rack. Across 5-10 racks (or more) per cluster. And that's not counting the AC that's required to keep the air cool.

    While setting monitors to sleep mode and powering things off do help, data centers have a lot of power use in a small space. It's clearly in everyone's interest to reduce that power since it results in a lot of savings across the board.

    Users can put in more systems per square foot, data center managers can rely on fewer UPS systems and fewer tons of AC, and the resulting lower utility bills is just icing on the cake.
  • by scrib ( 1277042 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:40AM (#23505194)
    What's in it for the data center? Of course they're not "eager" for new tasks on their To-Do list!

    "Hi, we'd like you to generously share some internal data and in return we'd like to give you responsibilities and guidelines about how we'll let you give your data to us! Sweet deal, right?"

    Presumably they are paying their power bills and thus have some incentive to take "reasonable" steps toward conservation. The government will need to use a carrot or a stick to coax this information from a busy business. I'm surprised simply announcing an interest in the information has netted as many responses as they've gotten.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 22, 2008 @10:54AM (#23505430)

    except for their bad, bad, white home page
    White uses less power on LCD screens.
  • Re:Few? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:07AM (#23505578) Homepage
    Or they don't want the environuts to start showing up with pikes and torches ...

    Seems a reasonable fear to me.
  • by The Second Horseman ( 121958 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:17AM (#23505760)
    Data centers themselves are actually (somewhat) easy to figure out - and to figure out how to conserve power, at least to some extent. Nobody's going to do unless they were planning to anyway, or have a financial motive. But at least it's a central location, you can identify where the power is going, etc. It's going to happen over time as the cost of energy goes up, more than likely. One major reason for inefficient data centers is actually a lack of money - you don't get the budget to rip and replace, so you have to keep tacking things on.

    So the EPA likes it because it's tractable. But in many organizations, most IT-related energy use is actually at the edge - factoring in thousands of computers, monitors, printers, edge switches, wireless access points, VOIP phones or digital handsets (a simple analog phone on-hook uses almost no power), etc. Dozens of computers in an open office area adds a significant amount of heat that has to be removed. And as more and more equipment runs uses Ethernet and TCP/IP, you need more and more network switch ports, often delivering PoE. I think a lot of organizations are going to end up pointing fingers at their IT departments because they can identify the cost, and it's easier to blame one group in one location than to face the fact that everyone's incremental usage adds up to significant numbers.

  • Re:Few? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nasor ( 690345 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @11:31AM (#23505990)
    Most of them were probably just too lazy to bother. I'm guessing that the information requested was a bit more complex than "How many kwh per month do you guys use?" The lack of replies probably has more to do with the data center people having better things to do.
  • You know, read the labels on the devices and such?
    To some degree, but some possible improvements would require a standardization mandate. For instance, I was reading here a few years ago that Google can make (or get made) hardware to their own specifications, and they save an awful lot of power by using strictly 12V DC to the motherboards, if not the whole boxes. They were advocating for the rest of the industry to do that, but if you run a data center and can't buy the hardware to do that, you're out of luck.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @12:23PM (#23506894) Homepage Journal
    "But it is a completely different story when it comes to the energy consumed in transportation. There is no viable alternative to gasoline for cars, diesel for trucks and kerosene for the airplanes in the near future. Nothing. And all the crude oil we import goes to transportation."

    Well, you're right for now. While we're starting to develop alternative fuels...let's try to get past the ECO-freaks out there, that won't let us drill for our own oil, in our country!! China is drilling in cuban waters just off the coast of FL...why the fuck aren't we drilling in the lucrative oil fields offshore of FL, NJ, CA...?? Why do we only drill in the Gulf near LA, TX and some of MS, that is insane. We have very high tech when it comes to offshore drilling...and it is very safe for the environment.

    If we could get past the eco lobbies...we could start drilling for out own oil to help relieve the need for foreign imports...we could start building nuke power plants (and for God's sake lets drop the laws that prevent us from using breeder reactors to get more power out of the fuel, and expend it as much as possible)...and those two things alone would help buy us some time till viable alternatives come about.

    We do need to get off the oil teet of the middle east...once we can do that...fuck'em, let'em do what they want over there...and we can get our asses out of there and not have to deal with them any more. Why do we buy so much oil, when we still have plenty to drill for in the US and off our coasts?

  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @12:30PM (#23506984)

    Those are the people in charge of writing legislation.

    There is a healthy impulse to create gridlock in DC. A R president often means a D congress, and vice versa.

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Thursday May 22, 2008 @01:32PM (#23508056) Journal
    Why do we buy so much oil, when we still have plenty to drill for in the US and off our coasts?

    If you subscribe to the theory that oil is a finite resource then you are better off consuming everyone else's before you tap your own.

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