Thursday, May 22, 2008

Regulating the Already Self-Regulating

Here's something worth celebrating. Data centers are declining to comply with the government's supposedly-anonymous "EnergyStar" background research project. See - some trend hacks have decided that Data Centers will be consuming more energy than the airline industry by 2020, so the government now thinks it has an in to regulate them. It's already recommending that they adopt energy-saving policies - as though, given the nature of their business and how they make their money, that wouldn't be something they weren't already looking into on their own. I mean - imagine yourself as the head of a data center. Your job is essentially keeping a room full of harddrives running and online. The two major things that can go wrong are: (1) power outages and (2) overheating. Naturally staying online is your main concern - which, I hesitate to point out, is good for all of us. Given how much information is online these days (Christ - ALL the information about how much money I have and owe, for example! I use cash essentially only to play $10 poker anymore...), redundancy and reliability are crucial to the functioning of the economy. Ok - so once you're reasonably sure that you're safe from crashes, what's the first thing you look to to lower expenses so that you can expand your market share and profit? Yeah - my first, second and third guesses were "power consumption" too. So once again we have an example of the government stepping in to regulate something that doesn't need regulating because it will take care of things on its own. As if the EPA doesn't already have enough to do dreaming up ways to justify preemptive governmental protection of polar bears. (Ok, ok, that's the US Geological Survey's job, I know.)

So I would just like to applaud the low compliance rate with this study. The data center industry is right to worry that the government is just itching for an excuse to regulate them in ways both costly to the rest of us an inefficient in achieving actual energy savings in any case. To illustrate the point - consider this project in our own Indianapolis.

Lifeline also plans a green campus environment by employing hydrogen-assisted diesel generators, reflective roof technologies, returning of old parking lots to green space, as well as implementing innovative HVAC technologies.

That's from a data center that just bought a defunct old mall - a building that was doing nothing good for anyone - and turned it into a useful part of the internet. No one required it to do all these green things - these are things that it decided to do on its own for its own business interests.

And this is all not to mention, of course, that data centers already benefit world energy consumption just by existing. They centralize data storage so that individual companies don't have to build their own centers and backup systems. I don't have any numbers on it, but it's reasonable to assume that farming out backup to designated data centers is more secure and more energy efficient than having each individual company manage its own data storage.

So, the EPA can officially fuck off, and I'm really glad to see the data center industry telling them to do just that.