A group of six leaders in the data center industry say that a new standard by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers is too “prescriptive” in its attempt to promote data center cooling efficiency, in part because of its support of airside economizers for all data centers, rather than just for those where the technology fits best.
The data center users involved include:
- Chris Crosby, Senior Vice President, Digital Realty Trust
- Hossein Fateh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dupont Fabros Technology
- James Hamilton, Vice President and Distinguished Engineer, Amazon
- Urs Hoelzle, Senior Vice President, Operations and Google Fellow, Google
- Mike Manos, Vice President, Service Operations, Nokia
- Kevin Timmons, General Manager, Datacenter Services, Microsoft
Recently, ASHRAE added data centers to its building efficiency standard. The standard defines energy efficiency for most types of buildings in the United States, and is “often incorporated into building codes across the country,” according to a statement on setting efficiency goals for data centers released by the group of six. Here is what they had to say specifically regarding airside economizers:
In many cases, economizers are a great way to cool a data center (in fact, many of our companies’ data centers use them extensively), but simply requiring their use doesn’t guarantee an efficient system, and they may not be the best choice. Future cooling methods may achieve the same or better results without the use of economizers altogether. An efficiency standard should not prohibit such innovation.
Hamilton, on his blogs, expounds on the issue, saying that ASHRAE is tackling the right problem, but with the wrong approach. He gives credit to ASHRAE for going after data center efficiency, and only suggests that its efficiency standard be performance-based, rather than prescriptive. A former auto mechanic, Hamilton gave an analogy on how performance-based requirements work wonders:
Ironically, as emission standards forced more precise engine management, both fuel economy and power density has improved as well. Initially both suffered as did drivability but competition brought many innovations to market and we ended up seeing emissions compliance to increasingly strict standards at the same time that both power density and fuel economy improved.
I have asked for a response from the ASHRAE Technical Committee 9.9 chairman, Fred Stack, but haven’t heard back yet. As soon as I hear from him, I’ll post his response. Hat tip to Hamilton for bringing this statement to my attention with his blog.