PUE, CO2 and NYT

Crater Lake Tour 2012

The NY Times has published an article "exposing" the shocking power wasted in a datacentre. It's an interesting read, even if their metrics "1.8 trillion gigabytes" take work to convert into meaningful values, which, assuming they use the HDD vendor's abuse of the values G and T in their disks specs, work out as:
"2,000 gigabytes": ~2TB
"50,000 gigabytes": ~50TB.
"roughly a million gigabytes": ~1 PB.
"1.8 trillion gigabytes": ~1.8 Exabytes.
"76 billion kilowatt hours: 76e9 KWh = 76e6 MWh = 76e3 GWh

There's already a scathing rebuttal, which doesn't say much I disagree with.

One part of the NYT article involved looking round a "datacenter" and discovering lots of unused machines, services that only get used intermittently. I'm assuming this is some kind of enterprise datacentre, a room or two set up a decade ago to host machines. Those underused machines should be eliminated; their disk image converted to a VM and then hosted under a hypervisor. Result: less floor space, CPU power and HDD momentum wasted.

Those enterprise datacentres are the ones whose PUE tends to be pretty bad -because it's mixed in with the rest of the site's aircon budget, and not as significant & visible a cost as it is for the big facilities. Google, Amazon and Facebook do care about this; they are probably the people backing the ARM-based servers, such as those running Hadoop jenkins builds. What those vendors care about tends to be cost though: cost of HW, cost of power, cost of land, cost of packets.

What the article doesn't look at -but the folks at MastodonC will presumably cover at Strata EU- is not the energy cost of computation, but the CO2 cost, Those datacentres in VA, where Amazon US-East is, have awful CO2 footprints, being all coal-powered. That's why it's ironic that the NYT complains about Amazon's diesel generators being pollution -in a part of the world where mountain-top mining converts entire mountains into smoke. They'd have been better off looking at the CO2 footprint of the datacentres, and of the other industries in the area.

MastodonC's dashboard is why I'm storing data and spinning up t1.micro instances in US-West 2 -Oregon; lowest CO2 footprint of their US sites.

I was also kind of miffed as the paper's criticism of power lines "financed by millions of ordinary ratepayers". Surely freeways were "financed by millions of ordinary ratepayers", yet the NYT has never done a shocking critique of Walmart's use of them to ship consumer goods round in fuel-inefficient diesel trucks, despite the fact an energy efficient alternative (electric trains) have existed for decades.

One thing the NYT does hint at is the storage cost -and hence the power cost- of old email attachments. It makes me think that I should clean some of the old junk up. What they don't pick up on is the dark secret of Youtube: the percentage of videos that are of cats. If you want someone to blame, blame the phones that make taking such videos trivial, and the people who upload them.

[Photo: Crater Lake, OR. The sky is hazy as the forest fires in Lassen and west of Redding are bringing smoke up from CA].

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for mentioning Mastodon C. Definitely planning to cover this at Strata (in fact I am sweating over slides for it right now). Am also hopeful that speaking there will get other people interested enough to get involved with further sharing and maybe open-sourcing the data.


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