Back in February, the European Commission became involved in datacentre energy use. It decided it wanted to see if a voluntary code of conduct could be created and, as is the EU way, acronyms, Renewable Energies units, and what not sprang into action. What has been achieved and what is the status of the activity?

There have been two meetings and their minutes and participant's PowerPoint decks can be found here.

Initial Meeting

The first meeting was in London on March 1st, 2007, and it was held by the Renewable Energies Unit of the Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC). The chief EC bureaucrat present and the driver of the meeting was Paolo Bertoldi, a program manager, and principal administrator of the JRC from May, 2001, onwards.

The UK government representative was Robin Murray. He took away one action from the meeting and Bertoldi took away the most of the others, confirming his driving role.

There were various representatives who included ones from the Green Grid (Christian Belady of HP) and the US EPA's Energy Star programme.

Basically, it was a discovery meeting scoping out the problem area and understanding relevant initiatives and their applicability and limitations, such as the Green Grid - highly relevant and applicable - and Energy Star - only applicable to PCs for now but server work is being done.

Belady's presentation was very informative and concise and made points about datacentre efficiency metrics.

Patrick Fogarty of Norman Disney & Young, consulting engineers, made some interesting points:-

- We are at present not a single industry – we are a collection of separate interest groups
- We need to identify key areas where the “Green” solution is the right solution ... And educate the Government in the process
- If we as an industry don’t lead the process we will be dragged to a unacceptable position

The ironic thing here is that the meeting and the initiative are being driven by a 'government', the European Commission.

However, this is a good thing because market forces, the meeting agreed, won't solve the datacentre power efficiency problem on their own. The value of energy savings to society is greater than the value to the customer. Help is needed to realise the potential societal benefit.

The meeting closed with the decision to continue work on developing an EU code of conduct. The actions include the proposal of working groups, prepare a problem statement and organise the next meeting.

Second meeting

The second meeting was held in Paris on July 2nd. It had around forty attendees, more than the first, with IT industry representation from APC, Cisco, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, IBM, Intel, Sun, VMware and Xyratex.

This was again another discovery and where-are-we-at type session, this time with more detail and more attendees.

The Green Grid presented again.

The VMware presentation was a pretty blatant sales pitch disguised as a way of lowering server energy consumption. VMware's Martin Niemer highlighted this point: Virtualisation is THE technology to increase x86 server utilisation and save energy, and then pointed out that VMware is the leading supplier of such virtualisation.

How could a supplier marketing guy miss an opportunity to have an EU code of conduct suggest datacentre operators use his product? It's still seems pretty tasteless though.

The MTP's Robin Murray gave estimates of UK datacentre server electricity consumption: 15,437 GWh in 2006; and 30,961 GWh in 2020. Effectively the server power draw doubles in 14 years. Total European data centre electricity consumption was reckoned to be 46 TWh (Terrawatt hours) per year in 2006, near doubling to 93 TWh per year by 2020. But, and it is a significant 'but', storage and networking kit electricity use is not included in these figures.

There was much discussion and the general conclusion was that, according to the minutes: "It was concluded that the Code of Conduct could be a suitable policy option, flexible enough to answer to the above issues. The Code of Conduct is a “multipurpose” document, allowing different stakeholders to commit to improve efficiency in the areas of their competence. The key target of the Code of Conduct would be the datacentres owners/operators, which would have to commit to undertake/implement efficient solutions in existing or new datacentres, respecting the cost effectiveness principle (over the life time) and the critical mission/performance of the system."

Now what?

The decision was taken to set up three working groups looking at: best practice; metrics and measaurement; and data collection and analysis. The meeting also decided to develop a marketing and communications strategy.

The progress of the three working groups will be seen at a third meeting which is scheduled for either Frankfurt in early October or London in mid-November. A draft code of conduct working document will be circulated for comment.

The decision was also taken that a working relationship should be set up between the Green Grid and the EU JRC Code of Conduct initiative. The aim is to share information and to collaborate where possible.

What we have here is a fairly determined effort, and so far a very successful one, by a skilled EU bureaucrat to develop a datacentre code of conduct. It seems very likely that it will happen and will be published some time in 2008.

If you wish to get involved, email Paolo Bertoldi at [email protected]