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Data Centers Expected to Pollute More Than Airlines by 2020

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the it's-all-that-smut-in-the-wires dept.

Data Storage 322

Dionysius, God of Wine and Leaf, writes with a link to a New York Times story on a source of pollution that doesn't leave contrails: "The world's data centers are projected to surpass the airline industry as a greenhouse gas polluter by 2020, according to a new study by McKinsey & Co. ... [C]omputer servers are used at only 6 percent of their capacity on average, while data center facilities as a whole are used at 56 percent of peak performance." Data centers, though, might have more options for going green than airlines do, given present technology.

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322 comments

More Options? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288574)

Hardly.

Most datacenters are contracted out. The companies hiring the datacenters do so based on price. And clean fuels have an enormous amount of catching up to do if they ever want to compete with coal. But let's say that a carbon tax is applied. Then these datacenter contractors will simply move their operations to somewhere that doesn't have these taxes. Heck, why do you think there are so many datacenters in the US?

But what if the companies hiring these datacenter contractors decide that they want to be green? Then these datacenter contractors will simply do some half-assed unproven carbon-offset like dumping iron into the oceans or planting trees in a place that can't support them (cheap real estate like tundra or desert wins here--especially if it is done in the 'future' while the offset company is preparing its sites).

The only real solution is the one that applies to the entire electricity grid. Either you need to massively subsidize renewable fuels or slightly subsidize nuclear power to deal with your entire electrical grid carbon problem. You have to do subsidies because you are competing with the energy prices with places like China.

Re:More Options? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288654)

I think there are a lot of software options to save on power usage. If most servers switched to using VPS technology, I bet it would cut power usage by 50-90%. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_private_server [wikipedia.org] Hardware optimized for power savings could save massive amounts of power if the dollars are there for the technology to be invented.

Re:More Options? (2, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288732)

It's very expensive to move a datacenter. It's not just the building and server hardware, but local infrastructure, too. The biggest datacenters are in California for a reason.

Therefore, the carbon tax need only be enough that taking the premium on greener energy tech is cheeper than taking the tax + moving and rebuilding infrastructure.

Re:More Options? (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288962)

Maybe, but some companies are moving to the Washington / Oregon border. Energy is cheaper there, and the less distance the energy has to travel the more efficient.

Re:More Options? (5, Insightful)

WaltBusterkeys (1156557) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289138)

It's not just the building and server hardware, but local infrastructure, too.
More importantly, it's where the big network connections intersect. A big data center in the middle of nowhere (with only 1 route to the outside world) is slow and vulnerable to backhoes. A data center near a major network interconnect (think west side of NY, or One Wilshire in LA [crgwest.com]) is somewhere useful -- data is close to the major lines and can be routed redundantly.

Until they move the large cross-Pacific network connections to the Hoover Dam, it's going to make sense to keep data centers near network lines.

Don't forget to pay your carbon indulgences, fags. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289202)

By the way, just what IS the ideal average temperature of the Earth, and when was the Earth ever stable at this magical temperature for any appreciable amount of time?

Fuck Al Gore (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289276)

Where are you now that millions of people suddenly can't afford to eat because we're pouring our corn into our gas tanks, you smarmy pussy? Hell, if Yassir Arafat (may his stinking corpse rot in hell) can get a Nobel Peace prize, I guess anybody can.

When a coin in Al Gore's coffer rings, a soul from environmental purgatory springs. Global Warming alarmists are as dogmatic as the worst religious zealots. Don't ask any questions, just shut up and hand over your rights like a good little liberal.

Re:Data centers in tundra environments (2, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289246)

What percentage of the power consumption of running a data center is cooling? If they were to build a data center in a really cold environment, I wonder if they could pump the resulting heat under the ground in the immediate area, warming it up enough to plant trees...

Although the other thing typical of tundra environments is the lack of sunlight, which may be more of a problem than the cold.

comment system sucks. revert. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288586)

egotists.

Excellent (5, Funny)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288614)

Excellent, the faster this planet's resources are used up the faster we start using other planets resources.

Re:Excellent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288640)

Saturn's moon Titan has seas of gasoline. I vote we move there next! I guess there is a problem of finding free oxygen so we should use hydrolysis powered by nuclear power on Jupiter's moon Europa (we can just drop the waste in the ice--it'll melt through).

Re:Excellent (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288822)

Well, that's interesting. Gasoline is a hydrocarbon isn't it? And hyrdocarbon is an organic compound isn't it? So, where did these seas of hydrocarbon come from?

Re:Excellent (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288904)

And hyrdocarbon is an organic compound isn't it?
So is plastic, but there's nothing about it that requires life to have been present. Same with hydrocarbons. Just because the most common source for hydrocarbon chains in our biosphere is organic material doesn't mean that the radically different conditions of an environment like Titan couldn't produce such chains out of raw materials.

Re:Excellent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288940)

Organic compounds need not originate from lifeforms. They may be synthesized via inorganic processes. The term is anachronistic; and in modern usage really only means "a subset of complex carbon-based compounds".

Re:Excellent (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289232)

hydrocarbons are "organic" in the sense of "organic chemistry" not "produced organically" or "organic farming". Do some research and you'll find outer space is full of organic chemicals that do not require organisms to be produced. Also ftr, the fossil fuel theory of oil production is not all it's made out to be and Titans seas of methane show this.

Re:Excellent (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289292)

but do you know what the lag time is for a Mars datacenter? Over 480,000 milliseconds lol. I guess data centers that run on martian magic and martian crust devil slaves are out. But this whole study is BS anyway because it assumes that we know all computer, energy, processing, storage, and other hardware upgrades that will happen in the future. Could people 12 years ago predicted what we have now. Not even remotely close. Dual core processing? Water cooling? Cooling that runs on chip heat? Sorcery I tell you!

Which is why a GOOD hosting business uses SOLAR (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288634)

Aiso.net is a smallish hosting provider utilizing ACTUAL SOLAR to power their datacenter,

NONE OF THIS CARBON TRADING MALARKY. And they're super flexible because they're not huge yet.

Located in San Diego I believe. Phil, their big tech cheese, is VERY generous with his time.

Vote with your feet, clean with your wallet, live by your choices.

Re:Which is why a GOOD hosting business uses SOLAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288680)

Vote with your feet
I tried doing that once, but it was really hard to hold the pen. I switched to a touchscreen, but that didn't help at all.

Re:Which is why a GOOD hosting business uses SOLAR (0)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288876)

Carbon trading is potentially brilliant. The carbon market just needs rules to keep out the dumber methods, like planting forests.

Re:Which is why a GOOD hosting business uses SOLAR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289220)

Aiso.net is a smallish hosting provider utilizing ACTUAL SOLAR to power their datacenter,
Apparently they don't make enough $ to pay for decent Web site development...

That seems unlikely (4, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288644)

Data centers need electricity, not jet fuel. There are many semi-environmental ways to generate electricity. At some point companies will do that purely out of cost saving.

Re:That seems unlikely (1)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288770)

Even if they don't do that, the relationship to airplanes has nothing to do with the value or quantity of work they put out.

Certainly a best effort is important, but comparing polution output without considering value is worse than useless as a data point.

Re:That seems unlikely (2, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289254)

It's not just the generation of electricity that is at issue. It is how that electricity is used also at issue.

2500 servers all converting from AC to DC = sizable loss of juice. Poorly designed data center rackspace using 10-30% (straight from my ass) more A/C than they would with efficient installations. I'm talking about force air systems that are misused etc.

Installing passive heat exchange systems will also help when they become available.

The point is that there are MANY things that can be done to cut down on the power that is used without regard to where it came from.

Re:That seems unlikely (2, Interesting)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289336)

They could relocate the Data Centers to North Dakota and Minnesota, where by 2020 there will be plenty of wind generated electricity, and the cool climate makes air conditioning unnecessary for 8 months of the year.

false economies (5, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288650)

I love it when they trot out these old war horses.

let me ask you this - what resources would be consumed if we DIDN'T use computers for these jobs? how many forests would we cut down to store the data in the worlds data centers?

i think people who write this kind of dribble lack any perspective. computers are energy savers, not wasters.

Re:false economies (1)

KnuckleHead (95241) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288808)

Here, here. This isn't true for all cycles in a center, but many cycles are *saving* CO2 footprint, etc. in the aggregate.

Re:false economies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288850)

Where? WHERE!?

Re:false economies (3, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288820)

Well, I agree that the statistics are useless in and of themselves, but to be fair, how many data centres are actually doing useful work? Point-to-point streaming of broadcasts, for example, is a horrible waste of CPU power and bandwidth, but it is the dominant method used by webcam services. OS overheads are often unnecessarily high, due to the running of excess services or inefficient code. Server rooms are often run far too hot and cooling methods are often inefficent.

If we measure greenhouse gas production, not as an absolute but as a percentage relative to what is actually required to do the useful component of the work, my guess would be that data centres do not work out to be that green.

Re:false economies (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288990)

define useful though. i'm not arguing that data centers can't be better, i'm arguing against the retarded notion that computers are somehow bad for the environment.

Re:false economies (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289342)

How to define useful. That's actually a very good question and critical in the understanding of environmental impact. Is a game useful? Depends on perspective. Is MSN useful? Well, ok, I'll skip that one. I guess I consider a computer as an electronic enzyme, something that converts an input into an output without consuming itself in the process. One step is not necesarily enough to produce the type of output desired, so there may be quite an extensive chain of conversions. Eventually, though, you produce an output. This may be a spreadsheet, this may be a database record view, this may be the next frame in a video game.

Going by this description, the useful work is the conversion itself. That fraction of the entropy is an inevitable consequence of what you are trying to do. The "non-useful" work is any overhead required by this electronic enzyme that is not a part of the conversion but is required in order for that computer to perform it. This is a function of the technology, not the problem, and is infinitely variable and controllable, but will never be zero and cannot be better than the ability to steer it.

Are computers bad for the environment? By this definition, no more (and no less) than any other enzyme, in the abstract. Specific solutions, specific computers, may be worse. The original Itanium was notoriously inefficient, for example. There was a lot of overhead within the CPU itself. Also, some CPUs, in an effort to reduce the power requirements, have too small a cache and do a lot of non-useful work in the form of spinning round in small circles waiting for something to do. Systems with shared resources are also prone to stalling, as are systems with excessively dedicated resources. It's a difficult balancing act. It has taken nature four billion years to produce systems with gigantic chains that frequently stall or malfunction.

Re:false economies (2)

eihab (823648) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288858)

I'd mod you up, but I'm out of mod points.

Your post makes absolute sense. I have at least 500 pictures of my son saved on my computer/backed up. I only printed a few of them to create a calendar that I sent to my parents. (not have albums upon albums saved up like my parents did).

I mainly shop online, meaning I don't drive my car to get to "the mall" and waste gas (and dodge all the flyers they try to hand out)!

Two weak examples, but I'm pretty sure you can easily count the things done with computers vs. without, and computers will be far ahead.

Computers save energy "as it is", when they lower the power needed to run a server/desktop or a datacenter, then it's "that much better".If computers use a tree a day as it is (exaggeration), we'll still be ahead from having no computers at all!

Thanks for the post, it's refreshing to see something like this on Slashdot :)

Re:false economies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288948)

Whaat! You can't just cut down trees and get a slower version of the Internet. Are you a senator from Alaska?

Re:false economies (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289042)

let me ask you this - what resources would be consumed if we DIDN'T use computers for these jobs?
That's a lot of coffee for informants!

Re:false economies (1)

scrib (1277042) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289186)

The article doesn't say that "computers are wasteful" but that "computers are not being used most efficiently." If a computer is on and sitting idle, that's "wasted" power. I imagine data centers consume a lot of power "idling" just so they can meet the demands at peak times.

CPUs that sleep or go into low power mode under light loads do a lot to minimize power consumption. Also, CPUs have been getting more work done per watt of power consumed. 2005 Tom's Hardware article [tomshardware.com] that mentions this idea.

It is an interesting notion that given current trends we will consume more power storing data than flying. I'd rather be flying. ;)

Re:false economies (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289312)

The article doesn't say that "computers are wasteful" but that "computers are not being used most efficiently.
That's where nVidia come in. With their very-clever-threated-multicore-coding, we can rest assured that all excess clock-cycles will be mopped up for rendering beautiful, life-like 3D animation for computer games.

Which only makes sense (3, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288670)

given that there isn't going to be much of an airline industry in 2020. By then, fuel will be so expensive, air travel will revert to what it was prior to the 1970s: something the rich did.

RS

Re:Which only makes sense (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288722)

wrong. by 2020 EVERYTHING will be too expensive due to poor economic policy based on non science and fear mongering.

Re:Which only makes sense (2, Interesting)

Warll (1211492) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288848)

wrong. by 2020 EVERYTHING will be too expensive due to poor economic policy based on non science and fear mongering.
Like that kind of fear mongering?

Nuclear Powered Aircraft (5, Interesting)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288938)

Or we could go back to trying to do nuclear powered aircraft [tripod.com]. This image [tripod.com] depicts a single prototype engine--its resting place is in southern Idaho.

Re:Nuclear Powered Aircraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289074)

I love those engines! But they do have some minor issues. They were designed for air to directly cool the fuel elements. Unfortunately 1% of the atmosphere is argon which is easily activated by a strong neutron flux--meaning that they would leave behind a radioactive trail of Ar-41 and Ar-42. Oh, and if they crash and disperse their fuel, I could imagine that there would be some issues involved. The first problem is solvable by introducing a heat exchanging loop, though it would massively increase the weight of the engine which would probably preclude its ability to make a plane airborne. But the idea of making an airplane that could operate supersonically for months at a time is certainly interesting. When I enslave humanity I will certainly consider using these engines for my floating palace.

Re:Which only makes sense (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289192)

air travel will revert to what it was prior to the 1970s: something the rich did.

Ditto for going by sea, unless you can row!

Nuclear power plants (4, Insightful)

ericferris (1087061) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288676)

I went to a seminar on building new data centers. There we a part about location of new data center. The favorite places in Europe were France and Germany, because of cheap power generated by non-polluting nuclear power plant.

I am aware of the end-of-life problem surrounding nuclear power, but you got to admit that if your goal is to avoid burning stuff, you cannot get any better than this. Especially in crowded, not-so-sunny Europe, where you cannot even make a "what if we paved the desert with solar cells" hypothesis.

Re:Nuclear power plants (2, Insightful)

shbazjinkens (776313) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288796)

I am aware of the end-of-life problem surrounding nuclear power, but you got to admit that if your goal is to avoid burning stuff, you cannot get any better than this. Especially in crowded, not-so-sunny Europe, where you cannot even make a "what if we paved the desert with solar cells" hypothesis.
Why not? Africa isn't too far south of Europe. It's not any further than the Eastern USA is from the deserts of the USA, mostly in the southwest. The reason that doesn't matter is because we have a national power grid. Eventually we should have a global power grid and lining the Sahara with giant wind turbines will be a possibility. If you feel political relations aren't adequate for such a friendly gesture, see the USA relationship with countries like Saudi Arabia..

I'm all for nuclear power too, we need everything we can get for when the coal runs out.

Re:Nuclear power plants (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288878)

Yeah its only a different hemisphere. A walk in the park.

Wrong. (1)

Version6 (44041) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288996)

A cursory look at a map shows that most of Africa is in the Northern Hemisphere--my eye says about two thirds. I didn't have a great map to look at, but some of Africa is more northerly than Texas or Florida.

Re:Nuclear power plants (1)

henni16 (586412) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288972)

The favorite places in Europe were France and Germany, because of cheap power generated by non-polluting nuclear power plant.


I hope they mentioned that Germany decided in 2000 to phase out all of its nuclear reactors with the last one going off the grid in 2020 or 2021

Re:Nuclear power plants (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289016)

That's interesting news. Do you know (or have a link) why, and what they're replacing them with?

Re:Nuclear power plants (1)

paitre (32242) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289216)

The only thing that they can really replace them with is coal or LNG.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4536203.stm [bbc.co.uk]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Germany [wikipedia.org]

The wikipedia article points out that there's a lot of discussion/argument/fighting over the shutdown, due to the increasing costs of fossil fuels. I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention that a significant minority of Germany's power now comes from Wind, but it is in NO means anywhere near enough to cover the total needs (it would need to produce some 10 times its current capacity, or more, to do so).

Re:Nuclear power plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289010)

Especially in crowded, not-so-sunny Europe, where you cannot even make a "what if we paved the desert with solar cells" hypothesis.
I guess it's a good thing they didn't decide to build one of the world's largest solar plants there, oh wait... http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/04/largest_solar_p.php

Re:Nuclear power plants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289210)

Germany is losing 25 GW of capacity due to the decommissioning of its nuclear plants (over 40% of their total electricity production). This solar plant you linked produces 11 MW. When there is a solar plant in Germany that produces even 0.1% of the nuclear power that it is losing, let me know. There is only 12 years to replace that capacity. I'll give you a hint: it is going to be with coal, probably burned in Poland.

Only when calculating (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288688)

Existing computers hog power whether they are computing or not. Whats needed perhaps is a way to allow them to consume power only when computing. Technologies to better pool resources would also be nice.
     

Re:Only when calculating (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288888)

Any real power saving technologies require a lot of time to recover from.
In a datacenter thats unacceptable.

Hooray for virtualization (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288694)

The average X86 server running a single app utilizes about 5% - 10% of it's resources. The average server running VMware utilizes 80% - 120% of it's resources (due to CPU scheduling, transparent page sharing, etc.) It's no wonder that every major datacenter is switching to VMware as the default x86 platform. Buy up that VMware stock, kiddies - it's the next Google!!!

Anyone else remember... (3, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288710)

Anyone else remember when "pollution" was stuff like sulfuric acid, low-level ozone, toxic chemicals, and stuff like that? Carbon di-oxy-ide, who'da thunk, eh?

Re:Anyone else remember... (2, Insightful)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288894)

Those were the days. I think the watermelon environmentalists have revealed their true colors when they define "pollution" as "anything that humans put out".

Re:Anyone else remember... (5, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289000)

Some of us define pollution as "anything that causes severe enough damage to our environment to make life difficult for us humans." And guess what, low-level ozone, ozone layer depleting compounds, acid rain precursors, CO2, volatile hydrocarbons, fertilizer runoff, and a variety of other things all count under that definition.

I can be really selfish and even somewhat short-sighted and still come to the conclusion that there is a problem on a massive scale. I have no particular need for us to not create any CO2, but it should be obvious to anyone who bothers to look at the data and the studies that we can't continue on our current pace.

Re:Anyone else remember... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289078)

CO2 does NOT belong in that list. it's a harmless gas that's present naturally, and it's a very minor greenhouse gas, of which we only contribute 0.28% of.

Re:Anyone else remember... (0, Offtopic)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289118)

Really? CO2-caused climate change / warming won't have an impact on humans? Have you read the major studies, or any reasonable summary of them? Also, do you have a reference for your 0.28% number? Everything I've seen suggests you're off by nearly two orders of magnitude, depending on the accounting details.

Re:Anyone else remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289416)

Nope, I read the scientific studies, not the fear mongering ones, and concluded that it's a drop in the ocean.

Re:Anyone else remember... (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289472)

Got a reference? A peer-reviewed, relatively up to date one? That actually says anthropogenic CO2 is irrelevant, not just that some other study overstates the matter?

Of course, it's harder to troll if you have to post references, so I'm guessing you won't bother.

Re:Anyone else remember... (2, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289156)

you're an idiot. 25 billion tons of CO2 annually and you're suggesting it does nothing. minor greenhouse gas my ass.

Re:Anyone else remember... (2, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289420)

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are pumping enough "depleted" carbon into the atmosphere that the people who do carbon dating have to correct for it, since the atmospheric C-14 ratio is lower now than it was 50 years ago.

If the people doing archaeological dating have to worry about it, I'd say it's major.

Re:Anyone else remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289150)

Back then, it was Acid Rain.
Now it's Global Warming.

data centers are like steam engines (4, Interesting)

xzvf (924443) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288752)

At the late 19th century steam engines were well established technology for shipping, trains and factories but they were very inefficient. Somewhere in the range of 15%. By the early 20th century steam power was at least twice as efficient (maybe more). Today most servers in data centers run around 15% utilization, doubling the utilization will slow the increased need for power. Virtualization, efficient parallel programming, thin client and network centric computing all have potential to double the efficiency of data centers. What would really be a breakthrough is a hybrid plane. Maybe with wireless power from space.

Re:data centers are like steam engines (1)

nebaz (453974) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288928)

So what you're saying is that we should power data centers with steam engines? Brilliant.

You're a typical retard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289064)

do you know anything about physics or airplanes? What would you envision a "hybrid" airplane does that's "hybrid"? For reference, airplanes run the engines at very close to max efficiency; they're optimized and flown in 2 fairly narrow operating ranges ... climb and cruise. The engines are sized and optimized for that. They're not at all like wheeled vehicles that need continuous performance from 0-150 KPH.

John

The trend-line fallacy (1)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288760)

The article's claim is probably not true. While the amount of electricity used by data centers has been greatly increasing, that's only because so many new ones are being built. Eventually, we get to the point where everyone and their dog has their own data center, and the trend stops. Also, Moore's Law means that data centers in the future will do more work with less hardware and less electricity. Trying to predict how much electricity will be used by computers in 2020 is silly, because even Intel can't know that.

A little more to it, here (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288768)

At least when it comes to my customers, the stuff that lives in datacenters is there - at least in part - to support distributed workers. In droves, they are shifting towards working from home, avoiding a lot of transportation-intensive face time, and learning to take advantage of not having to have their same back-office systems humming in a closet in a rented office where nobody shows up any more, except to reset the router so they can go back home and get some damn work done.

Some newly used rack space in datacenters actually offsets other daily fuel burning - sometimes a lot of it.

Oh no! (0, Troll)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288856)

I don't want my datacenter to start using doing things in a supposedly "green" way for any of the following reasons:

a) because a government forces them to

b) because an activist forces them to

c) because they think it'll be a selling point

d) because they believe its the Right Thing (tm)

The ONLY reason that I want my datacenter to switch to "Green" power is if and when it is CHEAPER to do so.

Any other reason will make data more expensive, slowing down the economy. It will be rife with unintended consequences. It will be more feel-good, accomplish-nothing "Green" activism.

How about we build some refineries for the short term and nuke plants for the long term, and solve everything?

Re:Oh no! (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288880)

You know... economy is not about money. Money is merely a score-keeper. I think your comment is wrong because economically it may be better to be green. Just my opinion.

Re:Oh no! (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288918)

That's true, but is that view useful in practice?


In practice, professional "Carers" end up driving everyone into a frenzy about the latest fad issue. Tilting at these windmills skews the economy (in the sense that you mean it) much more than simply looking at the dollars does.


Re:Oh no! (how wrong can you be) (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288950)

Sorry mate, but you got it completely totally 100% wrong.

economy is not about money. Money is merely a score-keeper.
The Economy IS ALL about money.

However the problem is that significantly more than "5 nines" of people cannot think far enough ahead to factor in the *real long-term economic impact" of what they're doing.

Seriously, if you could factor in *all* the really really really long-term implications (ie "costs") of most things people do today "in modern society" you'd be truly horrified.

So let me repeat myself, in order to be *really* clear about this - "The Economy" is *all* about money, but when people say "it's not economical" what they really mean is "it's hard to justify based on short-term returns", where "short term" is "before I die/retire/get voted out".

NOBODY who is thinking about "the economy" is actually factoring in the financial impact out to (for example) 200 years (or 500 years) from now. (and if you're one of those people who think that what we do now will be irrelevant by then, you're mentally incompetent and should not be in a position responsible for *any* decision making whatsoever ).

Re:Oh no! (how wrong can you be) (1)

PiSkyHi (1049584) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289448)

Seems as though you are saying that Economy being all about money is why people can be shortsighted about our future living standards.

What if people who studied economics were actually taught that money is only relative ? - A large pile of money with no food available is totally useless.

So, I think its the *mis*perception that economy is about money that causes some people not to even think about future living standards.

Re:Oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289036)

Have you any idea how arrogant that is? It'll cost you one way or the other. You might end up paying cash for them to do it, but the alternative is for you to spend extra money on electricity or on other side effects.

The assumption that paying less in this area isn't going to lead to higher prices elsewhere is really something that has to be justified, because in practice the cost of environmental problems doesn't generally just affect the person or people responsible for the damage.

Re:Oh no! (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289158)

That is why carbon caps and trading are important to addressing the greenhouse gas emissions problem: A large portion of the world will only abide by ecological imperatives to the extent those imperative are reflected by monetary expense.

Some people insist on using money as the final quantification/valuation of all things, despite the fact that there are many things that it cannot measure responsibly. So regulation steps into the market to make money fundamentalists take notice of the problem, and curbing GHG emissions is then expressed in terms they can understand (saving money).

Re:Oh no! (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289230)

Well, I would say that carbon caps and trading would fall under category a) above. Such policies would be government artificially and arbitrarily adding costs, according to the political winds.


Some people insist on using whatever environmentalists say as the final quantification of all things, despite the fact that there are many things they cannot measure responsibly.


Re:Oh no! (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289450)

Markets are just as artificial as government and anyone who says that all major decisions must involve only one mode or the other is pushing a brand of totalitarianism.

Some people insist on using whatever environmentalists say as the final quantification of all things, despite the fact that there are many things they cannot measure responsibly.
Just throwing it back in people's faces doesn't make your argument any more convincing. For one thing, ecologists don't have any single, one-dimensional measurement to which all analysis must eventually be reduced. I also haven't met any reasonable person who would put the "science" of economics on par with ecology. So I don't see what the rhetorical trick of suggesting equivalence does here, except declare that you are on thin ice and out of ideas.

Re:Oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289178)

CHEAPER? In what sense?

Is the goal nothing more than just spending fewer dollars or pounds? Burning dinosaur corpses (ok, dead plant matter) has been cheap for the last century (give or take) and what has that gotten us? A war and warming. Long live the cheap solution.

Re:Oh no! (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289290)

a) because a government forces them to

b) because an activist forces them to

c) because they think it'll be a selling point

d) because they believe its the Right Thing (tm)
a) The Government frequently steps in and create (dis)incentives or regulations to push individual/business behavior in a direction that they think is proper. The actual argument is a bit more complex, but suffice it to say that you are surrounded every day by government enforced requirements.

b) Free Market at work

c) Free Market at work

d) Not your business

The ONLY reason that I want my datacenter to switch to "Green" power is if and when it is CHEAPER to do so.

Any other reason will make data more expensive, slowing down the economy. It will be rife with unintended consequences. It will be more feel-good, accomplish-nothing "Green" activism.
We're going to have to diversify energy sources sooner or later.

The domestic energy market is going to undergo a "correction" within my lifetime, much like the crumbling road infrastructure. I'd much rather plow the money into doing it now than waiting for that upcoming market correction to fuck us all over.

P.S. Please tell us about these "unintended consequences" so that we may discuss them

I say STFU, until.... (4, Insightful)

JRHelgeson (576325) | more than 5 years ago | (#23288864)

People that make such sweeping claims as this crap just light my fuse. They want to complain, and it seems their only point is to offer compromised solutions... Its like they fell like they're being helpful by getting in the way. If people would just start thinking realistically about these problems and allow the building of Nuclear Power plants, this problem would be solved. But it seems that these people don't want solutions, they want to complain about something. All they can do is point to a NEAR catastrophe, which was a mere accident at 3 mile island 30 years ago. Give. Me. A. Break!

You get more radiation from eating a BANANA than you do from living next door to a nuclear power plant. And while on the subject, I used to think that these people were simply "NIMBY's", the age old Not In My Back Yard type of folks. But these people aren't NIMBY's, These people are BANANAS! Build Almost Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. They are flat out anti-progress and they do it in the nicest way "we're trying to help".

I say BULLSHIT! You have three choices: Nuclear Power, Agrarian Society, Global Warming. Pick one.

Re:I say STFU, until.... (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289278)

Funny thing though... the blue-blooded types who are the most heavily invested in the return of nuclear power (and nuclear weapons) as a growth industry tend to live in the very pretty-pretty places that are so exclusive and restrictive that NIMBY-ism pales in comparison.

All in all, its disingenuous to rail against NIMBY-ism when the above people call the economic shots and have a deregulated industry to boot. Problem is, their nuclear people and their insurance people (darlings though they are) don't want to talk to each other. Frankly, if you were a major player in the insurance industry and had to stare a 40-fold increase of nuclear operations in the face (amid the ridiculous hysteria over 'dirty bombs' spread by some of the biggest nuclear cheerleaders) I'm certain the cat would get your tongue too.

Their only 'solution' so far has been to go beyond deregulation and make the nuclear interests immune to lawsuits. (Chairman Mao would be proud.)

I say BULLSHIT! You have three choices: Nuclear Power, Agrarian Society, Global Warming. Pick one.
Yeah, but 6.5 billion people "returning to the land" to create agrarian societies would obliterate the ecosystem(s) a lot quicker than what climate change threatens to do. So your response is part BS too.

Virtualisation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23288866)

this will help elleviate such concerns.

Consider the source..... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289048)

I'll bet there's a huge consulting wing at McKinsey, waiting to help you redesign your data center.

While it's true that cost savings aren't being seen because data center/NOC design is state-of-the-art 1995, there's lots being done to achieve better savings. Virtualization (while not green, still a good performance/watt idea) works wonders. SaaS is in its infancy. Higher storage/watt is here, today, as well. Until we find the end of Moore's Law, we'll continue to be more efficient, if only because energy==money.

The whole thing smells of consultants wanting money, rather than citation of methods that pursue more efficiency. Maybe Iceland still needs to be the data center of the earth (think geothermal, and they have mindless amounts), but TFA is largely specious.

Why are we comparing to the airline industry? (2, Insightful)

Bovius (1243040) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289126)

I may just be ignorant, but...is there something specific about the airline industry that makes it a bad thing to surpass it? I haven't seen actual numbers on emissions for airliners, but it seems like we could drum up some other things that burn more fuel. Like, oh, I don't know, the *auto industry*? What about manufacturing plants? Chemical/pharmaceutical facilities? Any class of facilities that process raw materials?

But of course the randomly selected slashdotter has some vested interest in data centers, so we're all for any solution that doesn't involve taking away our servers. What? We are. We seem pretty ready to jump all over people who say global warming isn't real or isn't man-made. We're eager to denounce big energy corporations for milking fossil fuels for all they're worth. But as soon as someone talks about regulating *our* stuff because of energy consumption or emissions, we want to pursue other options.

So you want to green up the planet? (1)

jlowery (47102) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289162)

Then just die. Seriously.

The reason we have the impact we do on the environment is that there are just too damn many of us, and not many are volunteering to leave the party. Instead, they're inviting their kids over.

And I'm no one to talk, either. I've procreated a little more than my fair share, and my wife won't let me redress the balance. But still, global warming proves that we finally have reached the point where our numbers are detrimental to humanity's welfare. And eating less meat, driving less often, recycling more, etc. just postpones the inevitable reckoning: there needs to be fewer of us, not more.

That, or we colonize Mars. Preferably with penal colonies-- like Australia in the 1800's.

hey lin-fucks... fuck you. tesco vee rocks. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23289194)

go get slammed up the ass again by linus. we know you love it you bunch of cock gobblers. sucking on one dick while getting fucked by another is your gay ass dream. fucking homos. shit eaters. linux fags.
 
all fags should die!

Two questions (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289204)

First, which side gets the data centres used by the airlines?

Second, what idiot is predicting the relative growths and advancements of two industries twelve years from now?

Let me guess, airlines won't pollute as much because most of us will be in our flying cars.

Shut up.

Gore V. Bush dogfood (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289282)

For those of you who are keeping score on who's talking the talk and who's walking the walk I offer this:

A tale of two houses [snopes.com]

Re:Gore V. Bush dogfood (2, Insightful)

njcoder (657816) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289392)

For those of you who are keeping score on who's talking the talk and who's walking the walk I offer this:

A tale of two houses [snopes.com]

For a long time Bush has been downplaying or denying the effects of global warming. But behind the American People's backs he went ahead and built a geo-disaster proof bunker in 2001.

I need to change my pants.

That's some hard spin (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289462)

Did you consider, even for a brief moment, that he actually cared about the environment when he had his house designed to consider it?

Was the limited square feet not a clue?

User load is variable, and upgrades are expensive (1)

Morty (32057) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289300)

Servers run at low capacity for two important reasons:

* User load/demand is variable. A lot of the capacity sizing is not for average demand but for peak demand. For example, mail servers see a lot more use at 1pm on Monday than at 5am on Sunday. Mail servers need enough capacity to deliver an all-company email from the CEO in a timely manner. If you reduce capacity to "even it out", big spikes in email, such as that all-company email from the CEO, cause mail delivery to be delayed many hours. The same applies to many applications -- the servers housing financial apps, for example, might see low utilization most of the year, but when quarterly reports are due, the finance people will be unhappy because the servers are running so slowly. Servers doing network management can go crazy during event storms such as major outages, which is when you most need them to be responsive. Many/most other kinds of servers have their own patterns of variable demand.

* Demand increases over time. Upgrades are far more expensive than energy cost, not just because of new hardware, but because of labor and downtime. Over-specifying a server up-front lets the system go longer without an upgrade, which is cheaper.

Wouldn't going green be easy for most... (1)

njcoder (657816) | more than 5 years ago | (#23289322)

Wouldn't going green be easy for most good data centers?

Already have tons of batteries and infrastructure to be able to work off the grid. Diesel generators could be powered by bio-diesel.

Really this is kinda stupid. Data Centers don't emit anything. If the electrical power generators were green, Data Centers would be by default.
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