Greetings from the New York Stock Exchange, home of the seven figure annual bonus, a large fraction of the planet’s financial transactions and one of the most seriously-guarded rooms outside of the military-industrial complex. The relentless security checks, stern-faced guards, and pop-up tank trap barriers (I’m not kidding about this) I had to pass to get in here all underline that the nation’s financial jugular vein is not something to be approached unless you have Serious Business to attend to. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself putting on my Serious Business Suit, getting mug-shot-ed for my Serious Security Badge and being ushered into a Serious Meeting Room (complete with life-sized portraits of long-dead tycoons and stuffed elk heads adorning the oak-paneled walls) to be briefed on how the Green Grid Consortium is teaming up with the US Department of Energy to re-shape the energy consumption of our nation’s data centers, beginning with the systems, boxes, boards, and chips that lurk inside them.
The Serious Meeting I attended was a couple of floors above the stock exchange itself and attended by an unusual mixture of financial and technical types who had come together to get a better understanding of the implications of the recent agreement between Green Grid and the US Department of Energy to cooperate on developing the metrics, tools, and best practices that will put future computing equipment on a Serious Energy Diet (see the DoE press release). I normally confine my ravings about energy conservation to the greenpowerZONE, but the fact that Green Grid, whose members are a veritable Who’s Who of the computing world, while primarily aimed at servers and storage equipment right now, I am sure that these measures will quickly grow to affect how we design and manufacture the networking equipment that ties them all together.
Green Grid has recently gotten some thoughtful criticism from the Gartner Group for not being aggressive enough in its approach, and for possibly letting the interests of its members interfere with producing meaningful and tangible standards. While I do suspect that much of the original motivation to form the Consortium was to circumvent potentially restrictive government-imposed regulation with a voluntary, market-oriented approach to energy conservation, the huge herd of corporate alpha execs that filled the room at the stock exchange tells me that Green Grid has Gotten Serious about getting a handle on the 61 billion kilowatt-hours (1.5% of US power consumption) that American data centers burn each year. The fact that arch-rivals Intel and AMD have worked closely together on the Green Grid program is a good indicator of just how serious they are about energy conservation. (One wag from Intel who participated in the first series of meetings at AMD headquarters was reported to have said “Now I know how a Klingon feels when he visits a Federation Starbase.”)
The interest in cutting both the energy consumption of high-end compute and storage equipment and its associated cooling infrastructure seems to be motivated equally by concern about global climate change and concern for the bottom line. Even those who tended to classify carbon-hating environmentalists in the same bin as flat-Earthers seemed to be Deadly Serious about decreasing operating costs, and reducing America’s out-of-control energy habits. Several CTOs from major financial corporations I spoke to at the Wall Street event agreed that the energy costs to run (and cool) their data centers was rapidly approaching and, in some cases, exceeding their capital equipment costs.
With several dozen major corporations involved (not to mention the DoE), it’s going to take a long time to develop the metrics, standards, and certification processes that will allow CTOs to buy Green Grid-approved equipment or use Green Grid-approved practices to build and run their data centers. But just like the European Union RoHS and WEEE legislation, the market-based guidelines of the Green Grid Consortium will eventually arrive and give equipment makers who’ve paid attention a Serious Advantage over the companies who have ignored them.
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