There’s been a lot of blogosphere talk recently about the Wikibon “Conserve_IT” initiative and how California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company are taking the initiative and offering organisations rebates for demonstrable IT efficiencies. You can find comments here, here and here.
Unfortunately as with so many of these kinds of initiatives, the devil is in the detail. It is worth spending time reading the Conserve IT wiki page and Wikipedia’s page on the California Energy Crisis of 2000/2001. To quote from Conserve IT: “Power in California is severely constrained”. Why is that? The answer is pretty simple; California botched their deregulation of the energy markets and were screwed over by many companies, including Enron. In addition, significant underinvestment has placed restrictions on power distribution within the state (some of which is starting to be remedied).
It is pretty obvious that companies such as PG&E need other methods of controlling energy growth (Wikibon almost claim a virtue of the way per capita energy growth has remained flat in California compared to the rest of the US and Europe) and rebates for efficient energy use is their approach. Don’t think of this as an altruisic green initiative – PG&E and others can’t provide the electricity required.
So what about the Conserve IT initiative?
“As part of the qualification process, Wikibon has launched the Wikibon Energy Labs, an independent verification service that validates energy measurements of vendor products. “
Do we have so little faith in our vendors? When companies deploy equipment into their datacentres do they not measure the increased load on their PDUs? HDS and EMC provide tools for calculating the power demands of their products. These are detailed methods of analysis, down to the component level. Cisco provide significant information on power draw for their equipment (I’ve talked about this before). I’m sure other companies do to – feel free to mail me links or tools for calculating power demands for other manufacturers (I’ve asked HP about this for EVA but had no response so far).
The truth is, most eletricity generating companies are out to make money and giving organisations rebates for using less of their products makes no business sense. Where there are constraints on offering a service, then perhaps rebates or other incentives can do good, but this is not the norm and won’t be replicated as a model across the rest of the US or the world.
As an organisation, you can do all the power calculations yourself. It isn’t hard and it isn’t hard to validate expected power draw against reality by getting one of your electricians to double check power consumption of a particular piece of hardware.
I’d urge all the vendors to make their power tools transparent and available. I would also urge them to incorporate KVA/cooling figures into their management tools.
In the meantime, read the links above and see how pointless Conserve IT is.