Duplicated Green Standards Are Doubly Wrong
If Green IT is all about efficiency and cutting waste, then why are organisations duplicating their efforts, asks Peter Judge
Sustainable IT is all about efficiency, isn’t it? About cutting wasted energy? So why are green IT people working on multiple standards, and duplicating their efforts?
This week, we heard about the ITU’s Universal Charger standard: a great idea, as it will do away with the need for phone companies to ship a charger with every phone, and for users to have multiple chargers for multiple devices.
Only, the universal charger isn’t so universal. There’s a European standard for it, released by standards bodies CENELEC and ETSI, and guess what? The two standards are different. They specify different power levels, and diverge on whether there should be a detachable power cable.
In practice, this may not matter much, because the success of these things actually depends on what is adopted by the vendors in the market. They also depend on the speed with which standards are developed and promulgated of course – and ITU has been working on this (apparently quite simple) idea for about two years.
Standards disputes are time-consuming and wasteful, and you would think that green advocates would lead the way in avoiding them.
Green data centre standards
In the more complex world of data centre sustainability there are plenty of standards, and it’s not instantly clear whether they overlap and conflict.
However online webinar company BrightTalk’s Green Week summit last month, found it had to run a whole webinar on “Decoding Data Centre Efficiency Metrics” intended to help users find their way through the maze of different standards they can work with.
The Green Grid’s PUE (power usage effectiveness) is the most simple; it just takes the energy input to the data centre and divides it by the energy that reaches the IT equipment. And yet, there is a “cottage industry” developing around a whole set of variations on the measure, Gary Thornton of CNet Training said on the call.
When you consider measures for the performance of the whole data centre, you have the EU Code of Conduct, a government-sponsored set of best practices for making a data centre more efficient. This has only about 64 data centres signed up to it so far, despite being very well regarded.
Supporters of the code say its influence is greater than that, because there is a possibility that at some point it may become mandatory, and enforced as part of programmes such as the CRC energy efficiency scheme.
Meanwhile, the PUE-proponent the Green Grid has launched its own codification of best practice, the Data Center Maturity Model. Where the EU code is authoritative and formal, the DCMM has a spreadsheet, and the prospect of “graphic equaliser” bars to display your data centre’s progress towards green Nirvana.
DCMM is cool and funky, the Code is formal, but both cover more or less the same ground.
In this instance, the overlap is probably not serious – there is a big overlap in the people developing the models, and they were both represented in that webinar. They are working from the same fundamental ideas.
Also, there’s probably a lot of benefit in having packages of data centre efficiency which can promote the ideas in the different atmospheres of public and private sector organisations. DCMM, if you like, can be seen as taking the EU Code ideas where they might not have otherwise reached.
Still, I do hope that sustainability advocates can avoid any unecessary duplication. Wasted effort in standards designed to cut waste, would be doubly wrong.