Google, Tech Firms: Data Center Efficiency Standard Could Stifle Innovation

While Google (s GOOG) has been a strong supporter of green data centers (GigaOM Pro, subscription required), the search engine giant, along with a group of tech companies, are protesting one specific data center efficiency standard: the recently updated 90.1 building efficiency standard from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). The objecting tech group, which also includes Microsoft (s MSFT), Amazon, (s AMZN) Nokia, (s NOK) Digital Realty Trust (s DLR), and Dupont Fabros Technology (s DFT), says that because the standard is “too prescriptive” (it details specific technology that has to be used) it could cramp innovation.

Urs Hoelzle, Google’s senior VP of operations, writes in blog post on the subject this morning that the ASHRAE standard calls for specific types of cooling methods to be used “instead of setting a required level of efficiency for the cooling system as a whole.” He points out that while the ASHRAE standard requires use of outside air (called an economizer) for data center cooling, this technology can have varying degrees of efficiency, and future data center technology might not need economizers at all.

Far better than the technology-specific standard from ASHRAE, Google says the industry needs an overall data center efficiency standard, where companies can pick and choose what technology they want to use. The debate over so-called “picking winners” when it comes to technology and standards, mandates and regulations, is about as old as the tech industry itself. For example, the federal biofuel mandates dictate that a certain portion of the biofuel supply should come from cellulosic ethanol. But the problem with standards bodies and policy makers picking technologies is that in nascent industries — like green data center tech, biofuels or alternative energy — the best technologies are not always known and in particular not known by standards groups and policy makers.

Google and the group are asking ASHRAE to replace “the proposed prescriptive approach” with an “overall data center-level cooling system efficiency standard” that will “allow data center innovation to continue.” In particular, they like the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric, which Google has been using to support claims that its data centers are some of the most efficient in the computing world.

For more on green data centers from GigaOM Pro:

Report: Green Data Center Design Strategies

Clean Energy and the Cloud, Redux

Image courtesy of Flickr user ~Bob~West~’s photostream.