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Green Grid Takes Data Centre Efficiency Fight To Government

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Governments need to handle data centres with care, The Green Grid and techUK argue

Data centre efficiency body The Green Grid is to look beyond cooling and servers, and campaign against excessive government regulations affecting the data centre industry, joining other organisations including techUK attacking what has been described as a “dog’s breakfast” of laws and taxes.

The Grid’s new Government Engagement Committee has been launched in the US, and showed up at the Data Center Dynamics event in London yesterday, to make common cause with European bodies and start a campaign for regulations that value data centres for their contribution to the economy. The event also heard a call from newly-relaunched UK body techUK to stop treating data centres as “evil”.

rona newmark green grid emcDog’s breakfast

“The data centre sector is a constructive piece of the overall economy,” said Rona Newmark, chair of the new Green Grid committee and a senior vice president of strategy at EMC. Data centres need to be more efficient, she said, but governments needed to understand the sector before applying new rules.

Newmark, and others at DCD argued that government action was inevitable unless the data centre industry could argue that it has cleaned up its act: “We need to regulate ourselves before someone else does,” said Newmark.

Both Europe and the US could strangle the data centre industry in rules, because both have a complex federal legal structure, where states sometimes lead and sometimes follow the region’s government, she told TechWeekEurope. 

The problem is that governments do not see the benefits of data centres, said Emma Fryer of techUK (below). Instead of noting the local services which data centres consumer, and the upstream services they offer, politicians can see them as “inherently evil – essentiall big sheds which employ very few people directly, use energy and cause emissions.

emma fryer intellectFryer opened DCD with a talk on the impact of carbon legislation, in which she described the CRC tax on industrial energy s a “dog’s breakfast”, because legislators have been blindsided: “Most climate change policy was created before data centres were invented, at least as a recognisable sector,” she told TechWeek, “and certainly before policy makers were aware of their existence.”

techUK wants to get the data centre industry covered by its own “climate change agreement” and excluded from the CRC, on the grounds that it contributes to growth and should not be unduly hampered by taxes.

Asked about the overlap between the Green Grid’s mission and techUK’s existing work, Newmark said she planned to meet with the UK body.

Mandatory Code of Conduct?

Alongside taxes, the industry most fears that the European Code of Conduct for data centre efficiency, a useful guide to best practice, will be made mandatory by new regulations, along the lines of directives for e-waste and privacy.

“At present, everyone uses the code of conduct, but not everyone signs up to it” said UK-based David Snelling of Fujitsu Labs, a Green Grid committee member. Very few people have signed up to it – including the British and European governments themselves – because to do so would require them to reveal basic information about their data centre assets, which they mistakenly regard as competitive secrets.

Despite the value of the Code of Conduct, it would be a mistake to make it mandatory various people involved with the Code tolt TechWeekEurope.  To do so would be impossible to police, would mandate out-of-date version of the technology (thanks to the time-lag in European legislation) and would be unresponsive to new ideas or new technology.

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