Lawyer Bait

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sun's new data center

I just read a story about Sun Microsystems' new data center in Broomfield, CO. There were some interesting highlights in the blurb.

Reduced Electrical Consumption: By 1 million kWh per month, enough to power 1,000 homes in Colorado

While this is a great stat, where did the savings come from? What is the PUE? Sun rolled out the Blackbox product last year - Containers/Pods are the next wave of computing as far as I am concerned - and I'll bet the container is still more efficient and the power saved in a Blackbox would power 1,000 homes on the cooling alone. You double the cost and draw of electricity in cooling a data center so unless the environment is optimized to support heat dissapation and optimize cold air flow, you don't gain much.

Reduced Raised Floor Datacenter Space: From 165,000 square feet to less than 700 square feet of raised floor datacenter space, representing a $4M cost avoidance.

I used to walk through a raised floor data center every week in a previous job and I always wondered why they were all the rage. The amount of cold air under the floor that didn't do anything was astounding. I know the electricians had a better environment to work in, but at the end of the day, no one ever asked me 'What am I paying for my share of idle cold air?'. Cooling is a necessary evil, and an expensive one. Looking not at cooling but how heat is removed is the key.

Enhanced Scalability: Incorporated 7 MW of capacity that scales up to 40% higher without major construction

What the **** does that mean? Are they using high octane diesel in their Caterpillars? Funny car fuel? A four barrel carbuerator?

Superior Cooling: The world’s first and largest installation of Liebert advanced XD™ cooling system with dynamic cooling controls capable of supporting rack loads up to 30kW and a chiller system 24% more efficient than ASHRAE standards.

I love Lieberts - they work, they're reliable, and they mask poor design. In this series of Lieberts it appears that their offering is more modular, and more deployable into trouble/hot spots than its other offerings. That is great, however they do not put the draw into the technical documentation. Efficiency is great, but if it takes 30% more power to generate 10% cooler air in the same footprint, I don't see the value.

Greener Architecture: Including flywheel uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that eliminates all lead and chemicals waste by removing the need for batteries, and non-chemical water treatment system, saving water and reducing chemical pollution.

I wonder when someone will actually have the stones to say, Green is great until it doesn't work or it costs 1.5x what traditional (proven) technology can deliver. Case in point: I wonder what the carbon output of manufacturing a wind turbine is compared to the .3 megawatt it generates. The steel manufacturing (they don't use woodstoves or solar to melt metal), the wiring manufaturing (people dressed in hemp clothing, using bamboo shovels don't find wiring deposits), the lubricants, the shipping fuel... Blindly going green because it's trendy may not be the answer. Yet. Did you cut down to one square of toilet paper to save a tree? Me neither.

Overall Excellence: Recognized with two Ace awards for Project of the Year from the Associated Contractors of Colorado, presented for excellence in design, execution, complexity and environmental application.

But not efficency? How can give an award for data center design without efficiency being the most weighted category for judging it? It is like giving out an award for best dessert without tasting it.

I love that companies like Sun are pushing the envelope and I hope it continues. I just hope that common sense enters the equation and that an actual yardstick is used to measure what matters.


  1. I wonder when someone will actually have the stones to say, money is great until it degrades the environment in which you live or it kills 1.5x as many people as a solution which also addresses (proven) environmental concerns. Case in point: I wonder what the true cost of manufacturing a wind turbine is compared to the true cost of coal or oil when you take into account the loss of agricultural land, water shortages, increased disease and illness, wars, standing armies and support for dodgy dictatorships. The steel manufacturing management team (they don't eat woodstoves or solar cells), the wiring manufacturing employees (people dressed in hemp clothing, using bamboo shovels will be the worst affected by climate change as they have few mitigation options), the lubricants, the shipping fuel... all these externalities are usually included when discussing Green power, but rarely for carbon based sources. Blindly ignoring green concerns because it's new and requires some change to the way we operate may not be the answer. Yet. Did you sell your sister into prostitution just because it would make some money? Me neither.

  2. I didn't have a hot sister...

    Since I cannot and do not control or influence how my power is produced, I sure as heck control and influence how much I use and how efficient my home is. Unplugging stuff I don't use, not using the home theater surround sound at 1000 watts to watch the Simpsons, and keeping the heat turned down whenever possible are just a few things I can do.

    As for green power - I am all for it, so long at it delivers a similar or better product for less money and less environmental impact. Today I'll take clean coal and nuclear over solar. Tomorrow is another day...


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