"If you as a datacenter manager run a 500 kilowatt facility, you account for almost 11 percent of the total energy consumption," Manos notes. "[A]s data center managers, you are now placed in a position where you have primary regulatory reporting responsibilities for your company. No more hiding under the radar. Your roles will now be front and center."
The United Kingdom isn't the only country scrutinizing CO2 emissions. The Obama administration has expressed interest in instituting a carbon cap-and-trade system, for example. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have taken a special interest in datacenters. Last year, the groups released a meaty report to Congress identifying strategies to cut datacenter energy waste; they also unveiled a software tool for diagnosing energy usage in the datacenter.
On top of that, the EPA is developing an Energy Star rating for datacenter infrastructure, of all things. Given the complexity of a datacenter, I can't help but wonder just how useful such a rating could possibly be. Devising Energy Star criteria for a single server proved a formidable task, and one that produced less-than-stellar results.
[ Learn why the Energy Star specification for servers falls short. ]
That, in fact, leads to one of Manos' driving points: Given that CO2 regulations are all but inevitable, and given that they'll impact datacenter operators, the industry needs to get involved as soon as possible to ensure that legislators don't come up with unreasonable one-size-fits-all regulations for datacenters.
"One of the items that came out during [a recent roundtable discussion] was how generally disconnected government regulators are from the complexities of the datacenter," Manos writes. "They want to view datacenters as big bad energy using boxes that are all the same -- when the differences in what is achievable from small data centers to mega-scale facilities are great. Achieving PUEs of 1.2x might be achievable for large scale Internet firms who control the entire stack from physical cabling to application development; banks and financial institutions, however, are mandated to redundancy requirements which force them to maintain scores of 2.0."
PUE (power utilization effectiveness) compares how much power your entire datacenter is using -- including servers, CRAC systems, and systems -- to how much of that energy is going toward computing tasks. A lower PUE means a datacenter is operating more efficiently, as the facility is wringing more performance per watt. A PUE of 2.0 would mean that for every two watts at the meter, only one watt gets to the IT hardware.