A Response to the NY Times Attack on Data Centers

by Angela Guess

Rich Miller of Data Center Knowledge has written a rebuttal to the New York Times recent article on data center energy consumption. Miller writes, “It is telling that the New York Times, in today’s front-page story about the data center industry and its energy usage, begins with an anecdote from 2006. The Times describes a moment when Facebook engineers had to race to local retail stores to buy fans to prevent its servers from overheating. It’s the kind of anecdote most people in the industry have heard – but not in the last five years. In its story, which kicks off a series of articles on the Web’s infrastructure, the Times has offered a tough indictment of the data center industry and its energy use and environmental impact. The story’s tone is reflected in its headline: ‘Power, Pollution and the Internet: Industry Wastes Vast Amounts of Electricity, Belying Image’.”

He goes on, “In depicting data centers as wasteful polluters, the Times has raised many valid points, including the low server utilization rates in many facilities, the industry’s slow adoption of some efficiency technologies (like tools that turn servers on and off), and the need to be accountable for environmental permitting of diesel generators. But in its first installment, the Times does an artful, fact-laden job of telling half the story. What’s missing is the narrative of how the industry has responded to the challenge of its inefficiency and environmental stewardship. The last five years have seen dramatic changes in the way the largest data centers are designed and operated, as companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft have vastly improved the energy efficiency of their server farms by overhauling their power distribution systems, using fresh air instead of power-hungry chillers (‘free cooling’) to cool their servers, and running their facilities at warmer temperatures.”

Read more here.

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