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Data Centers Push Back On US Efficiency Rules

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the rules-are-made-to-be-fought-in-court-for-years dept.

Google 134

alphadogg writes "Data center executives from Google and other large companies are pushing back against new efficiency requirements proposed by a prominent standards group, saying they are too 'prescriptive' and don't leave them room to innovate. 'This standard defines the energy efficiency for most types of buildings in America and is often incorporated into building codes across the country,' Urs Hoelzle, Google senior vice president for operations, wrote in a post on the Google blog. Data centers are among the fastest-growing users of energy, and setting efficiency standards for them is a welcome step, he said. But he called the requirements 'too prescriptive.' Instead of setting efficiency targets and letting engineers decide how they can best meet them, the amendments specify types of cooling systems that companies should use."

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What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (1, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854114)

For example, the standard requires data centers to use economizers -- systems that use ambient air for cooling. In many cases, economizers are a great way to cool a data center (in fact, many of our companies' data centers use them extensively), but simply requiring their use doesn't guarantee an efficient system, and they may not be the best choice. Future cooling methods may achieve the same or better results without the use of economizers altogether. An efficiency standard should not prohibit such innovation.

I made the argument a couple days ago that video codecs should not be directly supported in browsers. The market must be able to innovate, and by forcing specific technologies, the playing field is narrowed and users are ultimately hurt by such prescriptive actions.

I'm in full agreement with Mr. Hoelzle, and I think that anyone who truly believes in limited government would as well.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854168)

I made the argument a couple days ago that video codecs should not be directly supported in browsers. The market must be able to innovate, and by forcing specific technologies, the playing field is narrowed and users are ultimately hurt by such prescriptive actions.

So, the reason that you don't like this one unrelated innovation (browser video codec support) is that... there must be room to innovate? What are you talking about?

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (2, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854838)

I made the argument a couple days ago that video codecs should not be directly supported in browsers. The market must be able to innovate, and by forcing specific technologies, the playing field is narrowed and users are ultimately hurt by such prescriptive actions.

So, the reason that you don't like this one unrelated innovation (browser video codec support) is that... there must be room to innovate? What are you talking about?

Wait, are you saying that guy made a bad analogy [slashdot.org] ?

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854226)

This isn't about limited government, it's about overly prescriptive specifications of efficiency. Even those in favour of efficiency regulation would likely agree that this way of specifying things doesn't make sense, so opinions about the scope of government aren't all that relevant. Also, if you happen to watch Fox News and take it seriously, please stop.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854316)

It clearly is about limited government. The antithesis of overbearing, prescriptive government is limited government that respects the rule of law and inalienable rights, not "efficient regulation." If you happen to read the New York Times and take it seriously, please stop.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (4, Insightful)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854956)

This was NOT mandated by the "government", it's a proposed standard from The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, a PRIVATE society.

What Google and others fear is that eventually regulators can use those standards. The government has done *nothing* yet, so you can save the bogeyman for another story.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31855664)

The original point was the past track record indicates that these sorts of standards get put into building codes, which means yes, they can and often have become government mandated. It is right in the summary. That it hasn't happened yet is immaterial, you have to go by past track record, and they want to make sure in advance that this doesn't happen.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (2, Insightful)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854540)

Indeed, I am in favor of even higher levels of efficiency requirements, but Google makes very good points. As long as company isn't harming the environment, let them find the proper way to innovate. Utilize their greed to your advantage.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854260)

No, you're completely wrong because the analogy doesn't work. Browsers need to support specific codecs for so that video encoders know how to encode video. Videos take up lots of space and require lots of CPU cycles to encode. If I know all of my clients support H.264 then I can encode video once and have it only take up space once on my server's hard drive. I shouldn't have to create and store H.264, Ogg Theora, MPEG2, and MJPEG versions just because every different browser chose their own format to support.

This is the same reason that browsers need to support specific image file formats. I remember when not all browsers supported JPEG (GIF and XBM were the only image formats most browsers supported), so web sites needed to have GIF fallback images. Some browsers partially supported JPEGs and opened them with a separate graphic viewer in another window. Of course there's nothing that says your browser can't support TIFF and BMP, but it damn well better support GIF, PNG, and JPEG.

But saying that you must use economizers isn't like saying you must use H.264; it's like saying that you must use SSE2 CPU instructions to decode H.264 streams. What if newer SSE4 instructions make it go faster? What if you don't even have an x86 chip in your device? Who cares how you decode the stream as long as you can make it show up without skipping frames?

So Urs was right, you were wrong.

dom

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (2, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854614)

No, you're completely wrong because the analogy doesn't work. Browsers need to support specific codecs for so that video encoders know how to encode video. Videos take up lots of space and require lots of CPU cycles to encode. If I know all of my clients support H.264 then I can encode video once and have it only take up space once on my server's hard drive. I shouldn't have to create and store H.264, Ogg Theora, MPEG2, and MJPEG versions just because every different browser chose their own format to support.

While it is a valid argument for having a certain baseline codec that everyone supports, it does not preclude having an extensible codec system.

For example, Opera 10.5 uses GStreamer on all platforms, which ships with a Theora codec - but you can extend it as you see fit.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (0, Troll)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854362)

I'm in full agreement with Mr. Hoelzle, and I think that anyone who truly believes in limited government would as well.

Hmm, so your opinion about this is motivated, not by reference to the practical reality, but to ideology?

Words can be very strange things at times - I don't see any ambiguity in the word prescriptive; it simply means that they don't like the government to tell them to save energy. I'm much more worried about words like "innovation" - as well as your use of the word "limited".

"Innovation": it looks like such an innocent and positive word, almost like "invention"; however, as far as I can see, where "invention" means that you have invented something that is actually new, "innovation" is much weaker - it just means that you have re-painted the tin in another colour or something. I.e. it is much closer to being simple deception.

It is the same with "limited" - what you hope it sounds like is that government should not be almighty and decide every detail in people's lives, which is of course supremely obvious to the point of triviality. But I suspect what you mean is that "all government is bad, bad, bad" and that it should be abolished as much as possible, which a completely different matter, and one that I think most people would disagree with.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854422)

your opinion about this is motivated, not by reference to the practical reality, but to ideology?

Yes. To tackle any problem, pragmatism is always driven by some sort of philosophy.

How can it not be?

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854512)

s/driven/tempered/;

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (1)

wwfarch (1451799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855120)

If you read the summary you would have noticed the line

"Instead of setting efficiency targets and letting engineers decide how they can best meet them, the amendments specify types of cooling systems that companies should use

So prescriptive means they don't like the government telling them HOW to save energy.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (2, Insightful)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855400)

I don't see any ambiguity in the word prescriptive; it simply means that they don't like the government to tell them to save energy.

If you had read the last sentence of the summary, let alone the article, you would know your conclusion is false. Also, the definition of what "prescriptive" means depends on the context. Were it not for the context that states the government is reasonable in demanding energy efficiency but unreasonable in prescribing exactly what measures are required to achieve that efficiency, the term would be very ambiguous in what exactly it meant.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856740)

I don't see any ambiguity in the word prescriptive; it simply means that they don't like the government to tell them to save energy.

And this is your first mistake. In this case it is not that they dislike the government telling them to save energy. It is that they dislike the government saying you must do process Z using X type of equipment because "it is more energy efficient". Their fear with this type of regulation is that if they find a way to do Z using Y type of equipment that is more efficient than X, the standard won't let them.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (1)

the_womble (580291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854918)

I made the argument a couple days ago that video codecs should not be directly supported in browsers.

Entirely different. Given the strong network effects in video codecs, a de facto standard will emerge: at the moment its flv, and widespread usage will be more important that its actual merits. The market does not work well.

Also, direct browser support of one codec does not prevent browser, or plugin, support of another. Browsers handle multiple image formats fine.

In this case, it sounds like the regulation is too heavy. There are no network effects, and mandating one technology may prevent the use of others.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31856278)

I made the argument a couple days ago that video codecs should not be directly supported in browsers.

Entirely different. Given the strong network effects in video codecs, a de facto standard will emerge: at the moment its flv, and widespread usage will be more important that its actual merits. The market does not work well.

The large number and difficulty obtaining the various has set digital video back by years - pick one and everyone standardise to it...even if it is bad at least everyone will be able to view it.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (1)

jdigiovanni (1787678) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855698)

Don't let your ideology get in the way of your common sense BadAnal. The post wasn't about government or about video codecs. You sound like a fanatic who has been brainwashed. Excessive brain washing has been known to cause faded brain... I suppose your "limited government" doesn't apply to our ridiculously excessive military spending.

Re:What does he mean by "prescriptive"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31857544)

> I made the argument a couple days ago that video codecs should not be directly supported in browsers. The market must be able to innovate, and by forcing specific technologies, the playing field is narrowed and users are ultimately hurt by such prescriptive actions.

That's a... bad analogy. For the browser issue, the sane thing would be to have an open standard all browsers support - they can then add more on top of that with plugins. The 'bad' side is that in the absence of this, a locked down format has been working its way towards being the de facto standard and chunks of the internet will break if/when the patent war happens.

For the data center power use, the sane thing would be to have an overall efficiency goal. Instead, some exact techniques were mandated, which effectively remove the ability for clever companies to invent any better ways of doing it.

A car analogy would be: we want more fuel efficiency, so we should set a fuel efficiency goal, but instead we say "all cars will have four cylinders", which in turn has the side effect of banning electric cars and stalling development on the things that'd make electric cars better (better batteries, better power generation tech like wind/water/solar/fission/fusion).

probably pushing external agenda (2, Insightful)

crazybit (918023) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854120)

So they can pull out a law forcing data centers to use the latest iCooling device from brand XYZ.

Re:probably pushing external agenda (1)

timewasting (1230064) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854490)

I think Rambus must be helping with drafting this legislation...

Re:probably pushing external agenda (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855360)

Brand XYZ better watch out, Apple is probably already drawing up the lawsuit.

It's not the government's business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854122)

...too tell you how much of a product you can consume.

If they want to add taxes to cover the externalities, that's fair... but the only rule for energy use should be: only use what you can pay for.

Re:It's not the government's business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854146)

I'd agree with you except that we didn't see major improvements in car fuel consumption until the feds mandated it.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

powerspike (729889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854252)

the exception is here, it's the large companies that are paying, and there's a difference in-between $40petrol a week and a 4 million dollar power bill.

if you want to reference it to cars - putting laws on the petrol use of cars would be like putting laws on how much power an individual computer is use - it's still apples and oranges

They have a rather large incentive to get their power bills down, and it's one of the area's where putting people working on it full will still provide a profit, and positive pr for them as well - win-win, telling people to use X or Y methods, and not try anything else is not only counter productive, but will also cost us in the long run, what new methods are going to miss out on in 5-10-15 years because people weren't allowed to try.

Re:It's not the government's business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854358)

largely because the incentives of the market haven't required increased production of efficient cars. Put that together with the auto cartel using the power of the state to remove competition, greatly reducing the need to respond quickly to market forces. Look at the last time gas prices were ~$4/gal -- any V8 truck/SUV was available for a song, while hybrids/compacts were selling at or above sticker price. When the market provides a compelling reason for fuel efficiency, the consumer always responds.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854404)

with the auto cartel using the power of the state to remove competition

Monopolies unfairly remove competition in the absence of government regulation.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

timewasting (1230064) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854480)

cartels often use the power of government regulation to do the work for them. A cartel is very different from a monopoly and benefit from the distinction. They have influence above a monopoly precisely because there exists a few in cooperative competition. In the US you have cartels in cars, telecom, media, and pretty much every other totally screwed up market segment. All of them use the power of government to screw consumers and restrict competition.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854532)

the invisible hand of the market: SURE !

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

emkyooess (1551693) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856188)

Not to sound like a broken record, but: Corporations and free markets are mutually exclusive. Simply the existence of a corporation (which is a government endorsed entity) is a hindrance against the free market.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857072)

Forgive my ignorance but isn't the governments recognition of a corporation irrelevant? A freemarket can have corporations.. you would just call it an "organization", "family business", or "group working together". But it would be the exact same thing.. with or without government recognition and labeling.

It seems to me that the creation of the corporate entity is a good thing because as people come and go the company still has to maintain it's records and pay taxes. I can't imagine a non-corporate (or oganization) entity building anything complex that takes years.. Ship building, space travel, high-rise construction. They all require a large workforce, a middle management, and an upper management.. and tons of records to manage and keep.

I am open to other ideas, but cannot see how corporations can hinder a free market?

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856806)

In the US you have cartels in cars

Huh? The US has one of the most competitive automobile markets in the world. Are you trying to imply that the Big Three are your only choice for purchasing an automobile?

Re:It's not the government's business... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854376)

The car analogy is relevant to a point.

However, computers and data centers are not cars. Technologies that artificially restrict things may be very harmful in the long run. For example, virtualization. Each physical machine is using more energy because of the added load of VMs, but because one physical box has replaced 1+ hardware machines with a VM, this means that a machine that is consuming 1000 watts of electricity is better than two running at 750. If someone places some arbitrary requirement that machines cannot use over 800 watts, then a server room will be forced to get more machines of a lesser wattage.

Or perhaps take SAN storage. As hard disks get denser and denser, they tend to put out more heat and use more energy. However, (and this is not factoring in RAID or other reasons to use multiple disks), the increased capacities more than make up for the increased heat. So, a 2TB drive may store more, but it replaces a number of smaller capacity drives that might use less energy singly, but combined, use more than the one drive. (Of course to reiterate, this is an example that factors out needs for multiple drives such as striping, redundancy and other stuff.)

Ultimately, energy efficiency is needed, but people can't just say that a 1U system can only take "X" amount of watts, similar to how cars are specced with MPG.

What might help efficiency are asymmetrical cores. If a database server is used 9-5, it could have a couple Intel Atom spec CPUs on it, as well as a number of normal CPUs. This way, when the CPU usage is so low that the low power Atom cores can completely deal with the machine's overhead, the other cores can be shut down when everyone heads out for Miller time.

Re:It's not the government's business... (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856104)

We did in Europe, which followed the suggestion that the grandparent made: adding taxes to cover externalities. Fuel taxes on this side of the pond mean that petrol is 2-4 times as expensive as in the USA (depending on the country), and so there is a strong incentive for consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars. A similar efficiency saving will save the customer significantly more over the lifetime of the vehicle in Europe than in the USA so there's more market pressure to provide efficient cars.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

whisking (1181729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856358)

By the way, at least here in Finland high taxes were not originally added to fuel (and new cars) because of covering externalities, but to control trade balance. All fuel and cars were imported, and there was a fear that trade deficit would follow unless imports were not kept low by keeping the prices artificially high to consumers.

Of course after having high taxes on fuel they cannot be easily decreased, because then the government would have to raise other taxes or reduce spending... But it is nice that there is now another reason to keep fuel taxes high.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

RogL (608926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856306)

Thought experiment about cars: if the goal is increased mileage, which would be more effective back in the 1970s:

(a) Federal government sets fleet efficiency standards for manufacturers to meet & defines a standard measuring process

(b) Federal government mandates all new cars have 1-barrel carburetors

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854150)

That doesn't work for limited resources. Though applied to energy now, the right of government to impose quotas has been recognized for decades in fishing and hunting.

Re:It's not the government's business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854402)

Your fishing/hunting analagy doesn't hold water. In a free market, that imposition of allocating limited resources is best done through pricing (supply and demand). When government enters the picture, you can count on the biggest political donation by a data center company trumping any need for innovation, thereby allowing the entire market to reduce energy consumption. Unfortunately, local governments are already whoring themselves with favorable tax rates to entice data centers to locate in their environs. So either a company chooses a place with high connectivity and semi-reasonable tax and energy rates (Ashburn/Dulles), or cheaper energy and nearly non-existent tax rates, and throw down the fiber to get themselves plugged in to the rest of the world (Vegas, and Apple's new place in BFE, NC)

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854408)

First, name something that isn't a limited resource. Here's a hint: there is not such thing. Given that fact and your reasoning above I must conclude that you support government-imposed quotas on all resources.

Second, why are quotas the only reasonable way to control usage? The parent clearly allowed for governmental intervention to adjust the price of resources to reflect costs not otherwise represented in the traditional market value of those resources. Couldn't that system work to achieve the same goals without the inflexibility of quotas?

Re:It's not the government's business... (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854428)

First, name something that isn't a limited resource.

Human stupidity.

Re:It's not the government's business... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31857180)

First, name something that isn't a limited resource.

Human stupidity.

Well done Einstein.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854492)

First, name something that isn't a limited resource.

Sunlight. At least it isn't a limited resource with regard to the human specie's lifetime. That's right, I'm favoring the extinction of humans prior to the the earth being engulfed by the sun as it turns into a red giant in 4 billion years.

Re:It's not the government's business... (2, Insightful)

Jenming (37265) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854624)

sunlight is certainly a limited resource. measuring over the life of the sun is meaningless if the people doing the measurement won't exist that long. Rather measure the amount of sunlight captured per square meter by say a solar panel or a tree and you will certainly find a limit. even measure all of the sunlight falling on earth during a day, huge for sure, but certainly finite in a reasonable sense.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857844)

sunlight is certainly a limited resource. measuring over the life of the sun is meaningless if the people doing the measurement won't exist that long. Rather measure the amount of sunlight captured per square meter by say a solar panel or a tree and you will certainly find a limit. even measure all of the sunlight falling on earth during a day, huge for sure, but certainly finite in a reasonable sense.

But sunlight is infinite in the "renewable" sense: There will not come a day when you have used up all the sunlight. There is a point where you've cut down all the trees or mined out all the ore. Not with sunlight, that never ends (Ragnarok aside).

Now if you want to be reasonable, you'll have to agree to discuss the same definition of "finite", because there certainly is a limit to the amount of sunlight you can measure in a day or a space, but there is no end to the measurements themselves, you can keep making them forever.

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854888)

sunlight is limited you simpleton. you can't make the sun shine more can you?

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854656)

The political system needs to milk the new economy and "Al Gore" like traders have positioned themselves.
You get some magical scale of CO2 per year based on some hidden, floating 'average' of your peers.
Beyond that you are made an "Offer You Can't Refuse".
Try and ride it out, you will feel the full force of the new EPA and have a eco rent a mob at your HQ.
The flip side to this? Is the US server industry riding 'rust belt' server tech for every last cycle they can?
Does better cooling tech exist on the open market thats not been used as its "not made here"?
Does the US gov know some hidden math about the grid that shows brown outs are on the way and a "green" upgrade cover is the only way to fix things before public reality catches up with the whispers of engineers?

Re:It's not the government's business... (0, Redundant)

Laser Dan (707106) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855038)

First, name something that isn't a limited resource.

Stupidity.

Now if only we could generate power from it...

Re:It's not the government's business... (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856838)

First, name something that isn't a limited resource.

Seawater.

I'm not sure (3, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854156)

On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense. It shouldn't matter much how they manage to accomplish this as long as they manage to do so. On the other hand, there are problems with that approach: 1) One might want to specifically not encourage certain approaches if they had other negative results (we'd certainly feel that way about a process that improves building insulation using the flesh of newborn babies). 2) It may be difficult to measure efficiency and other metrics directly. So having specific requirements helps remove that uncertainty. This is one reason why a lot of building codes are so specific. The way the electric wiring needs to go in residential homes is standardized. Sure, you might come up with a better way of doing it. But the probability is high that something will go drastically wrong.

Re:I'm not sure (2, Insightful)

Leafheart (1120885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854184)

1) One might want to specifically not encourage certain approaches if they had other negative results (we'd certainly feel that way about a process that improves building insulation using the flesh of newborn babies).

That is very simple to do with a blacklist. And that's how the legislation should have been done. Set the target, blacklist what should not be used. In fact, no need to blacklist, there is already regulation that will deal with most of the problematic solutions, just put some working that reminds people that the other guidelines and regulations are still effective. If there is a need, blacklist some other small stuff. But never whitelist.

Re:I'm not sure (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854276)

If there is a need, blacklist some other small stuff. But never whitelist

These building regulations have to be passed into law on a State by State basis.
Trying to blacklist stuff is like playing the same game of whack-a-mole 50 times over.

I'm not saying that a whitelist is the best way to deal with this situation,
but "never whitelist" is a stupid way to do public policy.

Re:I'm not sure (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854438)

Okay. "Never whitelist" is probably overkill. But whitelists should only *only* be used when there are fixed number of allowed behaviors and no significant new behaviors are likely to ever exist. For example, a whitelist prescribing the way in which execute people is probably reasonable; there might be new ways to kill people, but we wouldn't want to adopt them right away, and they're not likely to be materially different anyway. But that sort of legislation is so infrequent that it's hardly worth arguing that you should "never" whitelist in legislation. You might set thresholds -- sump pumps must produce at lest 6 GPM at 35' of head, drivers may not travel in excess of 75 MPH -- but there's virtually no reason to ever specifically enumerate allowed behaviors.

This is not exactly a new idea; it's fundamental to US legislation, beginning with the US Constitution: the powers granted to the government are whitelisted, while the powers reserved by the people have no such limitations.

Re:I'm not sure (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854234)

Building codes are often standardized because being standardized is itself a safety benefit. If the wiring is using Standard X, the government knows that standard was vetted, its building inspectors know what that standard is supposed to require and know how to look for common failures to meet it, there is a lot of testing of best practices, etc.

But here we're talking about an efficiency measure, not a safety one, and it's not clear to me that there's any inherent value in standardization, unless it somehow serves as a means to an end of greater efficiency. With environmental things in particular, mandating specific technologies has very high risks of regulatory capture, where the mandate is used to push well-connected products and sectors, even if they don't make any sense by any objective measures (see: "clean coal", ethanol).

Re:I'm not sure (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855364)

With environmental things in particular, mandating specific technologies has very high risks of regulatory capture, where the mandate is used to push well-connected products and sectors, even if they don't make any sense by any objective measures

My First though was along the lines of "Which suppliers and/or patent holders stand to benefit from this?"

see: "clean coal", ethanol).

Together with a whole host of other "green" ideas which have not been though through long term (or for that matter blatant fraud...)

Re:I'm not sure (2, Insightful)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854910)

Efficiency rules might encourage behaviour that's inefficient overall. On top of that, they are hard to enforce and are susceptible to loopholes and cheating. The best policy for improving energy efficiency is to increase the cost of energy. Maybe through a tax. This will automatically encourage energy efficiency and there is no enforcement needed. Of course a standards body has no power to do this, which is why I'm wondering why this is an issue that a standards organization should care about.

Re:I'm not sure (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855918)

Efficiency rules might encourage behaviour that's inefficient overall.

Energy Star gives stars to the top percentage of devices (say, 10%, but I'm not sure). So, if you can get a category defined that's you and only you, then you control it. Say you get the 48.6" to 48.9" widescreen LCD TV range defined as a single category. Then you make one each of 9 models that are purposefully horribly inefficient, and submit those results to the EPA, then make one that's much worse than the industry average (and obviously, worse than the average Energy Star rated ones) and it will get the star. You make lots of those, sell them with stars on them, and someone would have been doing better to get the non-star TV that's 50" if they cared about the energy cost (as opposed to just whether it has a star on it). So it's possible for the worst energy user on the shelf in a store to have the Energy Star. The program doesn't "encourage" that, but it certainly allows for it.

Most government regulations can be gamed, often so easily it's silly. So, either those tasked with running the government haven't made an effective law in years through incompetence, or democracy has lost out to corporatism and we are in a country run by soulless conglomerates who lie cheat and steal for profit.

Re:I'm not sure (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857542)

The solution if to prohibit the negative results. For your example, by prohibiting murder and grievous bodily harm, you automatically also prohibit the use of newborn babies' flesh as insulation.

Unlike many environments, data centers tend to be well instrumented for exactly the sorts of measurements needed. They tend to know exactly how much power is used and for what purpose.

PUE? (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854240)

Everyone has a PUE? It's a rating by which you determine your efficiency.

I was talking with one engineer who had designed some interesting storage units. He was like yeah, in theory, it has a PUE of 1. Uhhh... you mean no cooling costs? He said, "Precisely."

It actually uses a very novel method of cooling, but they never went into production to my knowledge.

This is precisely what they were referring to in terms of too prescriptive in requirements. Through some innovation in varying scales you can produce some systems which perform far superior to TODAY'S conventional technologies.

Also note, in some of the larger shops they engineer some of their own devices. This may or may not fall into the confines of what is described in a mandate. Gasp! I know, more strange innovation. However, this is an area where many individuals and corporations have been trying to be king of efficiency for years.

Re:PUE? (1)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855100)

Your sig suggests a promising career as a datacenter cool engineer

Is there some other agenda here? (5, Insightful)

el_flynn (1279) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854242)

I don't know about you, but I've become somewhat jaded when it comes to standards like these. Usually, there's one or more parties who stand to gain financially if the standards are implemented (naturally). But when those who benefit are those that impose the standards themselves, doesn't it become somewhat of a slippery slope?

Where I work, there was this company XXX who was touting some kind of solution to protect mobile phone users; if your phone is stolen, and you report it to the operator, there was some mechanism in place that would lock the phone when it was powered up. This could be done because each phone has a unique identifier, kind of like a MAC address. Problem was, the technical platform was supposedly half-baked and too pricey, so many of the operators rejected it. But then, they got the idea to approach the government - and lo and behold, the powers-that-be came up with some regulation and standards that all operators had to comply to. Best of all -- we had to use Company XXX's technology!

So the question is -- do the members (or more likely, ASHRAE's Technical Committee members) stand to gain financially by implementing this? I would think so, since ASHRAE's made up of persons in the HVAC and other related fields. Members will gain access to "many opportunities to participate in the development of that technology [ashrae.org] "

Re:Is there some other agenda here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31855540)

What is the point?

Much better to go underground in caves, or high altitude where cold air is free and plentiful.
Yet datacentres are in death valley, because the rent is cheap, never mind the cooling costs.

But no, we say brand xyz hvac aircon, never mind alll the same equals risk. If that model they recommend is susceptible to coastal air salt or EMP, that would not be good.

Re:Is there some other agenda here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31855990)

This is why free market people oppose regulation, it is always twisted this way, even when it is not immediately apparent as in the above example.

mogd up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854244)

ooficers. Others started work on

Right talking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31854324)

- Legislation should be restrictive only about total efficiency, not how to achieve that efficiency.
- There should/could be industry standard recommendation for technologies how to achieve certain efficiency levels
- Legislation should never restrict using some yet unknown technology!
- In unknown technology feared to cause real problems, have it authorized by standard evaluation process
- If something is really unefficient or is otherwise unethical or dangerous, just blacklist it

Forcing to use just some tehcnology sound like heavy industry lobbing.

The truth is... (5, Funny)

matunos (1587263) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854334)

...Google just wants to continue using the chilled blood of babies to cool their data centers.

Re:The truth is... (1)

urusan (1755332) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856184)

...Google just wants to continue using the chilled blood of babies to cool their data centers.

Are you aware of how amazingly efficient chilled baby blood is at cooling data centers? We have to protect innovation like that!

Re:The truth is... (1)

cffrost (885375) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856612)

Google just wants to continue using the chilled blood of babies to cool their data centers.

As far as hemocoolants go, this guy's blood would probably work better. [bbc.co.uk]

Re:The truth is... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856818)

Hehe, Fluorinert which was used to cool the Cray-2 is also used as a blood plasma substitute so I guess it's possible =)

Re:The truth is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31857546)

...Google just wants to continue using the chilled blood of babies to cool their data centers.

Google obviously doesn't use blood.

The specific heat capacity of blood is 3594 J/kgK, while water's is 4186 J/kgK. Losing ~25% in transfer efficiency is not a good engineering solution. If anything, they'd use Hartmann's Solution, which has a SHP of 4,153 J/kgK.

Sheesh, don't you know anything?

Of course (1)

foo fighter (151863) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854406)

Being green is good except for whenever **I** have to do it!

Re:Of course (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856466)

Wow, nice knee-jerk reaction before even reading the summary. They're not complaining about being told to be efficient (it saves them money anyway, so they'll probably do it without regulation), they're objecting to being told how to be efficient. Apparently they think that data center engineers are in a better position to judge how to design an efficient data center than politicians and lobbyists. If you disagree, perhaps you should explain why.

Auto headlamps. (4, Interesting)

TechwoIf (1004763) | more than 4 years ago | (#31854416)

The same thing was done in the past. Only 6 inch round headlamps was allowed in cars manufactured and sold in America. It was the best back then, but what happen in the following years is that it stop innovation all together in America and Europe started to make better headlamps. Years ago was the law was repealed and non 6 inch headlamps was allowed to be installed on autos. Took years for America to catch up.

Re:Auto headlamps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31855634)

This isn't the same at all.

If you limit the PSU to 400W then they will find ways to innovate and reduce the power consumption of the other components. No one is saying that they should use square power supplies.
  That would be a limit that does not affect the look or shape of a product, but would make them come up with clever designs that reduce power wastage.
CPUs have been getting better in power usage without losing performance, Graphics cards are the opposite.

Re:Auto headlamps. (2, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857006)

Uh, 400W would be severely limiting. I'm in the process of replacing almost all of my current datacenter with a VM environment and I'm using boxes that have 750W power supplies to do it, but I'm using 7 of them to replace 160 servers drawing ~300W each so my total efficiency is going WAY up. That is why we say leave the details to those of us who do this for a living and just set an efficiency target rather than prescribing specific technologies.

Re:Auto headlamps. (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855752)

Why would the shape and diameter of the headlamp affect the possible bulb technology and fluting of the lamp?
The only effect of this that I have seen is that auto lamps now cost $200 - $500 to replace instead of $20 at your local auto supply shop, due to each make having an individual design.

Re:Auto headlamps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31856034)

The difference isn't because each manufacturer has a different design (they do, if you're talking about the headlamp assembly) but because it is a drastically different product. Your standard old style 6" headlamps are just glass with a sorry excuse of a focused beam and a reflector equivalent to a flashlight bought at the dollar store. These days the headlights usually incorporate some sort of projection lens, better reflectors and what not. They are much more focused, and much brighter. This costs money, but is worth it. I would NOT want to return to the old 6" lamps, those were only marginally better than a couple candles.

Re:Auto headlamps. (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856214)

also the shape of the lamp has been dictated, 6" round. that doesn't leave much for making the lamp spread sideways or any other beam shape.

Re:Auto headlamps. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856876)

Where do you buy your headlights? I just replaced a headlight on my wife's car. It cost $14. So either you are shopping at a high end auto shop or you are driving a high end car...or you are talking out of your a**. And yes, the headlight I bought was specific for the make of my wife's car.

Re:Auto headlamps. (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857000)

Was that the bulb or the whole lamp?

To previous poster: As far as beam spread is concerned, proper fluting has provided a more than adequate range for my needs.

Re:Auto headlamps. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857034)

Where do you buy your headlights? I just replaced a headlight on my wife's car. It cost $14. So either you are shopping at a high end auto shop or you are driving a high end car...or you are talking out of your a**. And yes, the headlight I bought was specific for the make of my wife's car.

A headlight lamp (what you are talking about) is only part of a composite headlight, which is what I'm sure he's talking about. But you did NOT repeat NOT replace a headlight, you replaced a lamp. Or well, you may have replaced a whole headlight, if it was some of the old school stuff we're talking about here, which we call a sealed beam design — the headlight is the lamp, and vice versa, with the entire reflector and lens included with every lamp purchase. During the time period we're discussing, you had to have a 6" round sealed beam headlight; then for some time after that, automakers were finally allowed to use other lamp arrangements, but they still had to be of the sealed beam type, and it was even illegal to install a non-sealed-beam headlight in your car! Obviously, this restriction has vanished, because now almost all vehicles (including my 1992 F250) have composites.

I have a new set of composite headlights for my pickup, waiting for installation; the old ones are badly clouded and cleaning them never really works that great. At this point the rubber seals are done so water will just get in there and rust them up again if I clean them. So, I got the new pair for something like $65 shipped, with lamps. But that's the cheapest set of composite headlights I've ever seen in my life, and they're cheap plastic; but that doesn't differentiate them from the original ones at all. In general, you can get aftermarket replacements much cheaper than OE spec from the dealer or even from a parts shop, by getting them online, straight outta china.

Re:Auto headlamps. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857720)

You're right, I only replaced the head light lamp. I have never replaced the entire headlight assembly (at least on a car where it wasn't a sealed beam design, I did replace several of those). Even with your example, we are still talking $65 vs the OP's estimate of $200-$400.

Re:Auto headlamps. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857816)

Even with your example, we are still talking $65 vs the OP's estimate of $200-$400.

Half of the point of my comment was a definition of terms. The other half was that my pickup's headlights are some of the cheapest I have ever seen. A single composite headlight can run as much as a thousand dollars from the dealer, on the latest, greatest, masturbatest luxury vehicles. Even to just buy the Bosch glass/metal headlights for my old Mercedes (meaning, the design and jigs are old, and now they just keep turning them out) is about $1200, and they only have two lamps. Some vehicles now have three lamps, including a projector lens for one or more of the lamps. A typical price for such a headlight from any dealer is probably over three hundred dollars. Here is a semi-random example [autopartswarehouse.com] of a plenty-expensive aftermarket replacement, over $200 for a single assembly for Acura RSX. (I just picked something I knew was probably moderately spendy due to Marque and which had projectors.)

Re:Auto headlamps. (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857082)

This type of thing happens all of the time in the auto industry. Instead of regulating output, the government goes and regulates hardware. Regulating hardware stifles innovation. In some cases it encourages the wrong kind of innovation.

For example, the British government used to tax vehicles based on engine bore size only. [wikipedia.org] This resulted in engines with small bore sizes and relatively large strokes.

I work in diesel engines. The government is increasingly pushing to mandate specific [wikipedia.org] emissions [wikipedia.org] technologies to reduce emissions. Right now, engine manufacturers only have to meet emissions standards. However, if the government mandates these technologies, better solutions may never be developed. Furthermore, the government would be creating monopolies for the companies that hold patents on this technology.

They would better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31855148)

Make 100% virtualization being mandatory (servers, storage, network).
The "dedicated server" approach has to die, for the sake of everybody.

Re:They would better... (1)

gfolkert (41005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856016)

So... what hardware would they run on then? VMs hosting VMs hosting VMs hosting VMs?

Re:They would better... (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857110)

Virtualized storage? why?

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This is a common problem (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855408)

It is one thing for the gov to say that we need to get our efficiencies up, for national interest. I have ZERO issues with that. The problem is that generally some lobbyists has gotten in there and made it now point to THEIR solution. Sadly, just about every one of those 'solutions' in any gov. response, will cost more and hurt us in the long run.

Economizers not always usable (2, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855544)

These economizers that are being referenced are not always usable. They effectively circulate outside air into the data center. When the outside air is too hot, they can't be used. Also, when the outside air has too many pollutants, they can't be used. The cost of having them makes little sense when their usability is low. Other systems could make better use of the investment.

This is definitely a case where goals, not methods, should be prescribed.

Re:Economizers not always usable (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31856186)

you will be bringing in some outside air anyways. As a data center is considered an occupied space, it needs to meet the minimum outside air requirements. The economizer just by passes any sort of heat exchanger. so if your OA is cooler than your RA you open the economizer. even if you need to cool it farther, at least you didn't warm it up.

You know of a data center that is 100% recirculated air? better not have people in it then.

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hi (0, Offtopic)

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Response from ASHRAE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31855744)

In its response [datacenterknowledge.com] , ASHRAE says there are already alternatives to economizers. Google and the other signers remain concerned about how the amendment to standard 90.1 might be interpreted by local building officials. They say tthe emergence of fresh air cooling is itself an indication of the speed with which best practices can change. “Not so long ago, economizers were a taboo subject for data center operators,” said Google's Chris Malone.It wasn't really until this 2008 Intel study [slashdot.org] that economizers gained momentum in data center design.

"Power to the People" (1)

cybrthng (22291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31855886)

Google has it easy Towns bend over backwards to get them to build and locate within their locality. With that being said the tax payers are often stiffed with the "perks" and "Abatement's" that are guaranteed to Google and one of them is usually always the huge cost of power utility and infrastructure that Google doesn't necessarily absorb. With that said, Google should be responsive to the local government and regulatory committees and not be so defensive to them. Its ok to say "bad idea", its okay to say "This can hurt our engineering" but remember Google, you're plugged into a utility grid that the "people" put there for you so if you want to be the biggest consumer thereof, you have to play within the "commission" of those people.

Yes google, I admire you, but I admire you for what you can do and have done. Becoming more of a "black box" that gets its own way isn't what I hope to see. If the regulation/law/policy is bad, speak to it directly, not in vague assertations. Show the world your engineering ability and how to do it right if you feel you have that technology.

No Loopholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31856300)

I suspect these standards are prescriptive to avoid creating loopholes and to avoid complicating enforcement.

How do you specify an energy use target for a data center? Do you specify kWh per CPU, per HDD, or something else? How do the agencies that monitor and enforce codes know how many CPU's, HDDs, or whatever else are in the data center on a given day? They just take the operator's word for it? With a prescriptive standard an agent can inspect for compliance and issue citations for non-compliance. I suspect this is what Google opposes. Restricting "innovation" alright, just not the kind of innovation you're thinking of.

Re:No Loopholes (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857060)

You measure it with PUE [thegreengrid.org] . Google has zero incentive to drive towards an inefficient solution, they just want to be free to come up with newer, better solutions to obtain efficiency.

I love technologically-clueless legislators... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31856400)

Congress-douche: I was an Art History major in college. When will the time travel machine be ready for us?

Asbestos (1)

laughingskeptic (1004414) | more than 4 years ago | (#31857186)

It is rules like those currently proposed that led us to exclusive use of asbestos in many applications such as all of our schools. Because instead of specifying the desired ourcome, they specified the materials to use. The rules should state the end objectives and not the details of how those objectives should be met.

The building codes are necessarily formulaic in that a high-school graduate building inspector in a small town needs to be able to evaluate if a given structure is being correctly constructed. So I am fine with examples of approaches that provide satisfactory results being included in the building codes. I just think it is a bad idea that the codes be written such that this is the only way that this can be acheived. If a company hires architects and experts or wants to apply a new technique developed at a university there should be room for this. Most municipalities or states simply take these codes and make them the law, so it can be next to impossible to work around short comings once they are made laws unless they are propperly written in the first place.

Google is right - dont control implementation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31857392)

The issue raised by a number of posters is the specificity of standards that define not the objective but the implementation. Initially it may seem like a good idea, but because it gets embedded in building codes, it can be the standard for much longer than it is actually a useful approach. The example of headlights and a lot of the electrical code is telling. By defining energy efficiency standards in quantitative terms rather than in specific implementation approaches, the engineers are free to use the best of available technology -- as long as they meet or exceed the consumption standards. Now, the tricky bit is defining what the metrics should be... mw per square foot, watts per MIP, whatever. Builders of small data centers will probably look to existing codes as a how to guide, but someone building a big site can probably afford real engineers. After all, energy consumption is the real long term cost of the data center and it is in their very personal best interest to reduce it.

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