One of the green topics Techworld has been covering is the developing European Commission-driven datacentre code of conduct.

It is aimed at producing voluntary guidelines to help reduce carbon emissions from datacentres across Europe. The initiative is particularly worth following as it might possibly represent the thin end of a wedge leading to potential regulation.

There have been three working group meetings at which DEFRA was represented through its MTP 'offspring'. A fourth meeting was held on December 4th in London and the minutes have a couple of mentions of the British Computer Society (BCS). For example BCS work on datacentre metrics will be used by the initiative's metrics working group.

TechWorld interviewed Zahl Limbuwala, the chairman of the BCS' Data Centre Specialist Group (DCSG), and discussed BCS involvement with the datacentre code of conduct and its development. We wanted to add to our understanding about the current state of the initiative, and the representations and views made from UK sources to it.

Techworld: Were you the BCS representative at the December 4th meeting? Who else, if anyone, was there from the BCS?

ZL: No, the BCS representatives at the December 4th meeting were Liam Newcombe, BCS-Data Centre Specialist Group (DCSG) committee secretary, Joe Baguley, DCSG Energy Efficiency Working Group Leader, Bob Harvey, BCS Ethics Forum Chairman, along with 7 other DCSG members.

Techworld: How did the BCS get involved in the code of conduct initiative?

ZL: The BCS-DCSG approached the CoC working group and asked them to come and present at a DCSG meeting/event back in July 2007 (We had over 50 members present at this event), this was set-up after one of our members attended the July 2007 CoC meeting.

Techworld: Who else from the UK was at the December meeting?

ZL: There were over 60 people present at the December meeting, mainly from industry, other "Green" initiatives, vendors and networks such as the BCS.

Techworld: Was anything said at the meeting about obtaining input from datacentre operators in the UK?

ZL: The UK datacentre operators have been providing input to the CoC for some time now. In fact the DCSG has been one of the major conduits between the CoC working group and the UK datacentre operators. The DCSG committee has seen and reviewed many of the CoC drafts providing consolidated input from our members.

Techworld: Does the BCS/you think that such input should be sought?

ZL: Yes, of course, this is why we have been and will continue to be actively engaged. We are also assisting the CoC working group in making contact with other representative groups whom we believe feedback should be sought from. We've found the CoC working group to be very open, in fact actively seeking our advice as to whom else they should seek feedback from.

Techworld: What is the BCS view on the datacentre code of conduct initiative in general?

ZL: The DCSG believe the Code of Conduct to be a positive first step towards demonstrating that the industry not only recognises the issues but is willing to do something about these issue without the need for regulation/legislation. The DCSG see the CoC as an ideal vehicle for datacentre owners and operators to voluntarily sign up to, in order to demonstrate this. The DCSG intends to assist owners and operators in this task as this is very much in line with our own objectives and work over the coming year.

Techworld: Does the BCS have any of its own activities focused on encouraging BCS members to operate greener data centres?

ZL: Yes, the DCSG Energy Efficiency working group was established exactly for this purpose.

Techworld: How does the BCS think that the datacentre code of conduct effort should progress?

ZL: The BCS/DCSG answer to this question was noted in the minutes from the meeting on the 4th, which I believe you have a copy.

(The minutes state: "The BCS has also some monitoring and data reporting guidelines and forms." These will be used as input for the next draft of the code of conduct document. The minutes also say: "There was a list of best practices that was made available to all involved and it was agreed that rather than force datacentres to adhere to a set amount it might be better to allow each individual to consult the list and adhere to the ones that are cost-effective to them, and result in substantial energy saving.The BCS will propose a matrix approach to evaluate the set of chosen best practices, and to establish if a minimum requirements will be meet.")

Techworld: Is DEFRA the best UK organisation to represent UK datacentre operator interests?

ZL: We do not believe DEFRA are trying to represent the interests of the UK datacentre operators specifically. We (the datacentre operators) are representing our own interests as described above.

Techworld: Not all European countries' government equivalents to the UK's DEFRA are represented at the meetings. Why do you think this is so? Is it a good or bad thing that DEFRA is being supportive of the data centre code of conduct?

ZL: I do not know why that is. We believe DEFRA's support of the CoC to be a positive thing.

Techworld: What do you think of the view that some IT equipment vendors have had a possibly too close an involvement with the code of conduct work? For example, Intel and VMware? Should there have been more involvement from non-vendor organisations involved with datacentres?

ZL: We welcome the involvement of the vendors because any solution to creating a greener data needs to include users, operators and vendors, as all three own a part of the overall solution and it would not be possible to achieve the savings we are looking for if we excluded the vendors.

Techworld: How onerous do you think it might be for smaller datacentre operators to sign up to the code of conduct as it currently stands? What might they have to do as a result of signing up that they are not doing now?

ZL: The Code of Conduct has been designed to contain more than one level of compliance. Compliance with the entry level would not be onerous for either small or large operators. Meeting the entry level requirements should actually result in a net cost saving for operators as saving energy unsurprisingly results in saving money.

Techworld: It is reassuring that the BCS already has its own green data centre initiatives and that it is contributing so energetically to the datacentre code of conduct effort. Owners and operators of datacentres in the UK can be confident that there is a voice actively representing their interests in the developing EU datacentre green guidelines initiative.