I've had a chance to do some reading over the last week as I traveled to Indianapolis for a meeting of the American Public Power Association's meeting on energy efficiency. I wanted to understand for myself how important data center energy efficiency was in the United States mid-west community. Most of the participants had no plan around data center energy efficiency yet. Their focus, as I understood it, was largely on residential and commercial lighting - much easier to understand and implement. Also, few of the utilities represented had huge data center load. I predict that will change over the next five years as additional and replacement data centers move in a sweep from the southeast to the northwest.
Here is a sample of my airplane reading relevant in some way to our common energy efficiency goals and my conclusions:
Robert D. Kaplan's book 'Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus', published in 2000 was the most illuminating history cum guide book I have read in a decade. I now somewhat understand Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the entire spectrum of the Russian gas pipe in a context that was just a jumbled set of separate facts. American schools don't educate us well on 'smaller' corners of the world.
All of us, peripherally involved in energy efficiency, are working at the edge of energy policy, and the realities of Balkan politics, cultural and economic histories is a legacy that Kaplan believes will most certainly influence the future. In fact, I believe he concludes that it is a more unstable area of the world than the Middle East.
The next book I picked up was 'Hot Flat & Crowded' by Thomas L. Friedman. No comic relief there! Every page chronicles more sad issues including species extinctions, loss of rainforest, human life at risk from extreme weather... predictions of more and more heartache. On page 165, Friedman quotes Curt Carlson, CEO of SRI International, saying: "Abundant, clean, reliable, cheap power would create the world's first truly level playing field, and unlock the innovative power of the very people who will help us solve the last remaining big problems we have around (health, education, and energy). These solutions need to come from both the bottom up and the top down."
In Conde Nast Traveler's "Book of Unforgettable Journeys: Great Writers on Great Places" published by Penguin books, Suketu Mehta writes about GLOF: Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding. The rising temperatures in the Himalayan mountains melt glaciers at a faster rate than the lakes can drain, resulting in water gushing 10 million cubic meters in four hours, for example, in 1985, an instance "that swept away an entire hydroelectric project along with scores of bridges and roads." We need to reverse that trend.
We can use what we have learned over the last many months about sustainable computing and evangelize for productive use of our electricity at every turn in our company, or continue as usual, wasting it because not-changing our behavior is so much easier in the short run. My conclusion from all the reading above is that our IT and Infrastructure industries' future, is to sell knowledge, not products. The world needs to do more with less, and that includes fewer servers running more efficiently, ditto infrastructure. The knowledge to enable this resource re-deployment is our strategic advantage.
Two additional points:
Even computer games are getting a closer look. See here on the November 13 blog for an examination of the power consumed in idle while kids play games.
At the Cloud Computing conference in San Jose, CA last week, the term "green" was nowhere to be seen. It is as if the entire cloud computing engineering clan didn't have a marketing team. And yet, wouldn't there be the potential for a sizable PUE advancement with an Amazon cloud solution? It seems to me that they must be maximizing efficiency to come up with a pricing strategy that includes all costs and is very competitive. The cloud people have not yet expressed it in terms of its lower carbon footprint. Is that refreshingly naive or is that an overlooked opportunity? Have a green day!