Roundup: Reactions to the NY Times

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On Sunday the New York Times kicked off a series of articles based on a year-long investigation of the data center industry and its energy usage. We’ve  shared our our take on the first installment.  Here’s a roundup of other notable analysis and commentary from around the web:

NYT Story on Data Center Waste Scares Some, Frustrates Others – From CNet: “Tweets and blogs offered some quick accolades to the Times for taking on such an important issue — there are no doubt inefficiencies in data centers today and more and more companies are making large cloud deployments every day. However some say the story is misleading in that it leaves out all that the Internet industry has done thus far in efforts to become more efficient.”

Why the New York Times Story is a Sloppy Failure – From Dan Woods, writing at Forbes: ” The New York Times failed in its mission to accurately explain the important issue of improving efficient use of power in data centers, and instead wrote a confused and incomplete article that is unworthy of its reputation. … The biggest problem with story is the confusion of ‘the Internet Industry,’ which is not really clearly defined in the article, and the world of Information Technology (IT), that is the use of technology by businesses. The subtitle of the story, ‘Industry Wastes Vasts Amounts of Electricity, Belying Image’ implies that “The Internet” is somehow projecting a green image but actually is wasting power.”

A Lot of Lead Bullets: A Response to the New York Times – A 5,000 word response from Diego Doval, former infrastructure architect at Ning: “As I was reading this New York Times article on data centers and power use, there was mainly one word stretching, doppler-like through my head: ‘Nooooooo!’ Not because the article exposed some secret that everyone that’s worked on websites at scale knows and this intrepid reporter was blowing the lid on our quasi-masonic-illuminati conspiracy. Not because there was information in it that was in any way shocking. The reason I was yelling in my head was that I could see, clear as day, how people who don’t know what’s involved in running large scale websites would take this article.”

A Response to the NY Times Data Center Articles: From Mike Manos at Loose Bolts, who was interviewed by the NY Times: ” After just two articles, reading the feedback in comments, and seeing some of the reaction in the blogosphere it is very clear that there is more than a significant amount of misunderstanding, over-simplification, and a lack of detail I think is probably important. … This is an incredibly complex space to try and communicate it to those not tackling it day to day or even understand that technological, regulatory forces involved. This is not an area or topic that can be sifted down to a sound bite. If this were easy, there really wouldn’t be a story would there? At issue for me is that the complexity of the powers involved seems to get scant attention (when) aiming larger for the ‘Data Centers are big bad energy vampires hurting the environment’ story.”

Balancing the Internet’s Energy and Infrastructure Needs – From Tim Carmody at The Verge: “The report also presents a distorted and outdated view of the internet and cloud computing. It focuses on frivolous media and entertainment, or ‘fantasy points and league rankings, snapshots from nearly forgotten vacations kept forever in storage devices.’ It doesn’t really grapple with the cloud as an increasingly-essential element of infrastructure, powering industry, government, finance, and commerce, as well as personal communication and data storage. In turn, that dilutes the story’s impact. It’s only when we recognize that the internet isn’t a pointless distraction, but is becoming as fundamental to our lives as roads, plumbing, and petroleum, that we understand why data usage and energy costs continue to grow and grow. At that point, the environmental efficiency of data centers turns into an undeniable problem. If the internet weren’t so important we could just scale it back, like styrofoam containers and aerosol cans. We can’t do that.”

NYTimes: Data Centers Are Evil Incarnate: From Rob Powell at Telecom Ramblings: “If you ever wanted to read about how data centers are single handedly destroying the planet through intentionally wasteful design and greedy, unrestrained, unnecessary consumption all driven by the voracious demands of modern consumers, well now’s your chance. That’s the New York Times’s take over the weekend, which you can of course read online on the device of your choosing and thereby help waste yet more energy. … But it’s just the media’s way of getting more eyeballs: exposing the obvious via one-sided hyperbole to stir up the pot.”

NYT’s Data Center Power Article Reports From a Time Machine Back to 2006: From Katie Fehrenbacher, who covers clean tech at GigaOm: “There are clearly some important issues left out of the articles so far — namely all of the data center energy efficiency work that the webscale Internet giants like Google and Facebook have done over the past two years — but I still think the series is valuable and can play an important role in shining a spotlight on the large amount of resources that are sometimes quietly consumed by data centers. … But the articles, so far, are totally dated. As my headline suggests they sound like the author, which spent over a year reporting out the series, jumped into a time machine and did his reporting a couple years ago. One of the reasons is that both articles so far start with anecdotes from 2006 about Microsoft and Facebook. …  Beyond these missteps, I feel the same way about the NYT’s series, the way I felt about Greenpeace’s dirty cloud reports. Yeah, they got a few things wrong, but the overall thesis is right, and can be used to make the Internet industry even more conscientious about their carbon emissions and energy footprint.”

Datacenter Innovation Advancement Not About Power, Pollution, and Internet: From John Furrier at Silicon Angle: “This is a publishing and reputation fail by the New York Times. Two main reasons: 1) it took one year to write (that makes them look stupid) and, 2) the entire cloud series is more doom and gloom than anything else. Bottom line: the entire New York Times’ article and current cloud series is suspect. The New York Times focus on the datacenter is not only irrelevant to the direction of modern society, but their entire article is filled with inaccuracies and old data. Unfortunately, what the story doesn’t show is how dramatically the curve on real, substantial efficiencies has risen over the last 5 years.”

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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