Tech giants protest about green standard

Usually, when companies like Google and Microsoft start talking about environmental standards, it’s to let us know just how eager they are to conform to them.

Not this time.

Instead, the two, along with Amazon, Nokia, Dupont Fabros Technology, and the Digital Realty Trust are protesting about a standard created by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

The standard is intended to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and is often incorporated into building codes to make sure that cooling systems are as efficient as possible.

But the companies say that it’s causing them real problems when it comes to data centres. They say that because it focuses on using specific technologies rather than just efficiency levels, it’s constraining them too much.

“That’s how many efficiency standards work; for example, fuel efficiency standards for cars specify how much gas a car can consume per mile of driving but not what engine to use,” says Urs Hoelzle, Google’s senior vice president for operations.

“A performance-based standard for data centers can achieve the desired energy-saving results while still enabling our industry to innovate and find new ways to improve our products.”

The standard requires data centres to use economizers — systems that use ambient air for cooling. But the companies reckon that this stops them using any more innovative techniques. (They don’t say quite what those methods might be – lots of small Asian children blowing very, very hard, perhaps.)

Data centres are notoriously power-hungry, with a recent report  from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describing them as one of the fastest-growing users of energy.

Google claims it already uses less than half the industry average amount of electricity to run its data centers – it seems it just resents being told exactly how to do it by a bunch of jumped-up air-conditioning repairmen.