Everything looks like a nail, a truism that ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) has just demonstrated in its advice to data center operators on how to achieve greater cooling efficiency in the data center (see ASHRAE Standard 90.1). In ASHRAE’s opinion, the way to achieve data center cooling efficiency is through the use of various economizer techniques (air-side, water-side …) to reduce the amount of energy used by the cooling plant. Unfortunately, this is a rather narrow view of the problem, focused on the stuff that ASHRAE members do best, i.e. air-conditioning and chilled water plants. The ASHRAE standard has now drawn a universal thumbs down from some of the largest data center operators (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Digital Realty Trust, DuPont Fabros Technology and Nokia) who issued a joint statement urging ASHRAE to re-think it’s position.
The truth is that economizer are just one approach to achieving more efficient energy usage and the best approach will vary based on a host of factors. For example, one company might favor widespread adoption of server virtualization as a way to reduce energy consumption, while another might be able to scavenge energy from the waste heat produced by the data center and use it heat buildings. Both approaches lead to more efficient use of energy without requiring the use of economizers. The problem with ASHRAE’s approach is that there is a danger it will get built into building construction codes and potentially restrict innovation in the data center. James Hamilton’s blog entry on the subject (see here) does an excellent job of describing the problems of such a restrictive definition.
Posted by: Nik Simpson