Data Center Regulation Awareness Increasing, Prepare for CO2K

This week I had the pleasure of presenting at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas, NV.  This was my first time presenting at the Gartner event and it represented an interesting departure from my usual conference experience in a few ways and I came away with some new observations and thoughts.   As always, the greatest benefit I personally get from these events is the networking opportunities with some of the smartest people across the industry.  I was surprised by both the number of attendees ( especially given the economic drag and the almost universal slow-down on corporate travel) and the quality of questions I heard in almost every session.

My talk centered around the coming Carbon Cap and Trade Regulation and its specific impact on IT organizations and the data center industry.  I started my talk with a joke about how excited I was to be addressing a room of tomorrow’s eco-terrorists.  The joke went flat and the audience definitely had a fairly serious demeanor.   This was reinforced when I asked how many people in the audience thought that regulation was a real and coming concern for IT organizations.  Their response startled me.

I was surprised because nearly 85% of the audience had raised their hands.  If I contrast that to the response to the exact same question asked three months earlier at the Tier One Research Data Center Conference where only about 5% of the audience raised their hands, its clear that this is a message that is beginning to resonate, especially in the larger organizations.  

In my talk, I went through the Carbon Reduction Commitment legislation passed in the UK and the negative effects it is having upon data center and IT industry there, as well as the negative impacts to Site Selection Activity that it is causing firms to skip investing Data Center capital in the UK by and large.   I also went through the specifics of the Waxman-Markey bill in the US House of Representatives and the most recent thought on the various Senate based initiatives on this topic.   I have talked here about these topics before, so I will not rehash those issues for this post.  Most specifically I talked about the potential cost impacts to IT organizations and Data Center Operations and the complexity of managing both carbon reporting and both direct and indirect costs resulting from these efforts.  

While I was pleasantly surprised by the increased awareness of senior IT,  business managers, and Data Center Operators around the coming regulation impacts, I was not surprised by the responses I received with regards to their level of preparedness to reacting these initiatives.   Less than 10% of the room had the technology in place to even begin to collect the needed base information for such reporting and roughly 5% had begun a search for software or initiate development efforts to aggregate and report this information.

With this broad lack of infrastructural systems in place, let alone software for reporting –  I predict we are going to see a phenomena similar to the Y2K craziness in the next 2-3 years.  As the regulatory efforts here in the United States and across the EU begin to crystallize, organizations will need to scramble to get the proper systems and infrastructure in place to ensure compliance.   I call this coming phenomena – CO2K.  Regardless what you call it, I suspect, the coming years will be good for those firms with power management infrastructure and reporting capabilities.


Author: mmanos

Infrastructure at Scale Technologist and Cloud Aficionado.

6 thoughts on “Data Center Regulation Awareness Increasing, Prepare for CO2K”

  1. Not surprising to me of course! As we previously talked many times, wake up DC industry!

    Unfortunately, still the same blinders on that last 15% of folks, and probably the folks in the room are more aware than some of their executive management.

  2. Mike,
    Fascinating post. Based in the UK, my experience from talking to data centre managers seems to concur. Awareness levels of CRC regulation were very low but are growing fast now; however, preparedness is very low. few companies seem to have much if any instrumentation in place. Those that do tend to default to taking intermittent readings manually – jot it down on a clipboard and go back to the office to fill in a spreadsheet. That is not going to wash in the future – power needs to be monitored and managed just like the ICT infrastructure. You need to know where the power is going not only to comply with regulations but because it makes business sense. Are you driven by the need to reduce consumption and make savings? Are you driven by the need to optimise operating efficiencies? Are you driven by the need to manage capacity and service levels? Whichever way you look at it, you need to have the appropriate metering devices in place and software that can collect and make sense of the data, turning it into actionable information – and in real time.

  3. The problem is never as easy as one makes it out to be… specially in large corporations were the Data Centers aren’t “managed” by and large by a single person. IT manages the gear coming in and facilities (which tends to own the electrical and cooling budget) only steps in when trouble tickets are placed for heat or electrical issues/needs.
    We still have huge disconnects between the IT and facilities groups with little to no communication between the two groups. Probably the only benefit to the cap and trade coming, is it will finally force the two sides to work together.

  4. Mike,

    You’re the only high-profile guy talking about these regulation issues – the datacenter industry constantly pushing talk of green this and green that is a recipe for a regulatory disaster.

    If someone had a plan for how to extract tax dollars in exchange for regulation that would at least be understandable, but I have never seen an industry work so hard to shoot itself in the foot like the Datacenter industry has been – the first step is establishing standards for measurement, any fool can see what comes next – the government, like anyone, can only “control” what can be “measured”.

    Not to mention that the bad rap about concentrating this electrical power all in one place is never balanced by anyone thinking about the benefits of all the airplane trips that it’s replacing, efficiencies of a world where we now have search engines, etc…

    Sorry to hear you are leaving, hopefully you’ll still make the occasional blog posting. I actually had a meeting with you and some of your direct reports once at Microsoft once but we ended up doing it without you so we never did meet – but your blog postings have all been spot on and I have enjoyed them tremendously.

    – Ted

    1. Ted,

      Thanks for the note. I still plan on posting and still plan on being active in Data Centers, The ‘Cloud’ infrastructure, and large scale Operations in general. I love this space to much to abandon it.



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