Saturday, February 9, 2008

Green Grid Coverage: The Pros & Cons

Since writing about last week's Green Grid Technical forum, it's been tough-going for the organization; some of the trade rags have received the Forum with major scepticism.

Ashlee Vance with The Register (in his usual intelligent but wry style) wrote "Green Grid pollutes environment with more white papers". Then, Matt Sansberry with posted the straight-up critical "Green Grid tech forum leaves users hungry for something meatier"

Net-net, these writers have valid points, but they're also missing an opportunty.

First, in the writer's corner:
  • Yep, Ashlee and Matt have a point: It's taken a year+ for the Green Grid to organize and to issue a bunch of white papers that essentially echo what's been out in the industry for some time -- empiric data, metrics, and best practices.
  • Much of the "heavy lifting" -- creation of best-practices and assessment tools -- is already underway from other (affiliated-with-the-Green-Grid) organizations, including,
    (1) the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's (SVLG) Energy Efficient Data Center Project will be showcasing real-world actions being taken by companies today
    (2) the US EPA has already performed an monumental study of the state of Data Center Energy, and is now working on developing an EnergyStar rating for data centers, much the same way they have one for buildings
    (3) the US DOE's Save Energy Now program is already far along in constructing an extremely comprehensive assessment, rating and comparison tool (to be called "DC-pro") for data centers
  • Debate about specific metrics (and their reciprocals) should have been settled long ago; there's nothing new about these analysis approaches
  • Indeed, the organization and its management is still highly vendor-centric
However, to the Grid's Defense (and, in full disclosure, Cassatt, my employer, is a General Member of The Green Grid):
  • Any new organization takes time to "level-set" the membership. Getting 150+ members to all agree on metrics and methodologies is no small feat. You've got to start somewhere.
  • Of course vendors would be first to create/join such a group. Certainly there's self-interest, but they also know they have significant power to drive broad awareness in the future. The Green Grid expects that as time progresses, they'll be attracting more and more "end-users" to the group and knows that this is a critical evolutionary goal.
  • Remember: This organization is not a "standards body" per se: rather, their charter is to develop and promote energy efficiency, user-centric models and metrics, and technologies. Thus their affiliation with SVLG, EPA, DOE and others to help promote those outside efforts seems to be working.
Now, for my editorial on the matter: (note that this is in the context of being a member -- but not a member with any "insider" information):
  • Given that the Green Grid is currently weighted toward vendors, and given that significant best-practice, assessment, & metric work is already being done outside the org, it would be logical for the group to focus on what it can lead in -- technology.
  • Thus, I could foresee The Green Grid's opportunity to lead-the-charge in two areas:
    (1) Identifying areas of "non-incremental" energy efficiency improvement, i.e. not just figuring out how to squeeze a few percent efficiency out of a power supply or a cooling system, but rather identifying radical new ways in which data centers and their technology is designed and operated
    (2) Encouraging their vendor membership (and the free market) to pursue these breakthrough technologies and operational frameworks.
  • Analogy: without President Kennedy's challenging the country to reach the moon, ordinary evolution of aeronautics would have taken decades or more to do the same. Perhaps the Green Grid can step-up to championing a similar energy-efficiency challenge.
In summary, rather than slam a well-intended group of very influential players, critics should instead help re-focus the energies of some 150 companies toward what they do best - innovation.

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