Manos: Prepare for Data Center Regulation

Mike Manos calls for a data center industry trade group to ensure that legislators tasked with regulating carbon emissions have an accurate understanding of the industry.

Is data center regulation inevitable? Mike Manos of Digital Realty Trust is back from a visit to England, where he held a customer discussion about the Carbon Reduction Commitment (PDF), the UK's version of cap-and-trade legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"While not specifically aimed at data centers (it's aimed at everyone) you can see that by its definition data centers will be significantly affected," Mike writes. The CRC mechanism is expected to "go live" in April 2010, and include all organizations that consume more than 6,000 MWh in 2008.

"One of the items that came out during the roundtable discussions was how generally disconnected government regulators are to the complexities of the data center," Manos writes."They want to view Data Centers 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 insitutions are mandated to redundancy requirements which force them to maintain scores of 2.0. "

Mike sees this situation as a call to action for the U.S. data center industry. "As an industry we need to start involving ourselves in educating and representing  the government and regulatory agencies in our space," said Manos. "While the Green Grid charter specifically forbids this kind of activity, having a Data Center industry lobby group to ensure dumb things won't happen is a must in my opinion."

Mike's blog post drew an interesting commentfrom Urs Hoelze, who argued that although banks may never reach a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.2, best practices could enable them to achieve PUEs of 1.5. Urs runs the data center operations team at Google, while Mike oversaw data centers at Microsoft before joining DRT.  

"You have touched on one of the reasons why I moved," Mike writes in response to Urs. "This stuff needs to get out."

It's surely a sign of progress when technologists who've run the data center teams at Microsoft and Google are openly discussing data center PUE and best practices in blog comments. The industry has come a long way in its information-sharing efforts.

But what about Mike's call for a data center trade group to lobby on behalf of industry interests in Washington? Who is best equipped to organize and lead this effort? Are the interests of data center builders, equipment vendors and end users aligned so that a broad consortium can work? Or is a smaller, nimbler group the most effective approach? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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