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New York Times Takes Aim At Data Center 72

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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  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court