The UK’s BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has put out a press release today calling for a common standard for reporting ICT power use. The organisation believes that just detailing the energy costs of a data centre does not provide enough transparency.
The BCS maintains that any assessment should highlight the energy source, i.e. the proportion generated from renewable power or from more ‘dirty’ emission intensive sources. If there was a common standard that included the energy source it would provide a more complete and consistent picture in footprint calculations and reduction actions, so that users could judge whether the cloud services they are using really are green and sustainable.
BCS cites research from Greenpeace (which I mentioned in April). The NGO published a report, called ‘How dirty is your data – A look at the energy choices that power cloud computing’, which looks at the energy consequences of the cloud infrastructure decisions that major IT companies are making and assesses who’s good and who’s bad. It also recommends that the IT sector should focus more on clean energy, be more transparent in reporting the power mix and actively seek locations where clean power is available to site new data centres.
The BCS points out that there are already tools and programs in place to measure data centre efficiency, including its own Certified Energy Efficiency Data Centre Award (CEEDA), the Green Grid’s Maturity Model and the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres. The organisation is also supporting the Carbon Trust/ WRI/GeSI project to develop foot-printing methods specifically for ICT. The aim is that it will become an ICT Sector Supplement to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Accounting and Reporting Standard. The BCS wants to expand the terms of reference of the group to include common standards to derive the power/CO2 emission factors that underpin footprint calculations.
A commendable thought from the BCS, and one that has already been suggested by the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA). The OCDA has come up with a measure for the carbon footprint expressed as:
The measure takes into consideration the carbon emissions from sources, which will depend on the power being used – zero if it is a completely renewable source. It also borrows from existing assessments, in that the ‘energy overhead’ is effectively the PUE, as defined by the Green Grid.
It seems to me that the ODCA’s approach is right. Any assessment of data centre energy use must (transparently) show the total energy, energy efficiency and an actual emissions if it is going to be both meaningful and useful. What bothers me is that so many organisations are involved in various attempts to achieve it.
But the GHG Protocol Initiative is pretty much the de-facto standards body in this respect, so I support the BCS’ move to expand the terms of reference of their ICT assessment. Having spoken to the ODCA recently I know the organisation is happy to support others in working out the details of ICT foot printing.