PUE abuse beyond the pale?

Published on 18th July 2014 by Ian Bitterlin

A few weeks ago I attended a ‘technical’ presentation that left my jaw dropping. It was so shocking that, at the time, I scribbled a few notes for later blog-fodder and used the term ‘beyond the pale’ in my little black book. Now that the dust has settled I have reviewed my notes and decided to share the lunacy – but first wondered if my ‘pale’ comment was appropriate, so I Google’d it... Beyond the pale: ‘Outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour’ Synonyms: Unacceptable, unseemly, improper, indiscreet, unsuitable, irregular, unreasonable, intolerable, disgraceful, deplorable, outrageous, scandalous, shocking, insupportable, objectionable So was I right? Yes, unfortunately, I was. The event was in an oil rich part of the Middle East – an important point for later reference – and the presenter was from Europe, although thankfully not the UK as it reduced my embarrassment when I distanced myself from the content in the coffee break. The topic, which was what attracted my curiosity and guaranteed my attendance, was lauded as ‘achieving a PUE of 1.0’ and a large group of other curious souls filled the hall for the revelations. The presenter represented themselves as a data-centre design consultant and even mentioned the name of a very well known German consulting practice which added considerable weight and gravitas. Having met the principle/owner of that practice a few years back I did wonder what they would have thought of the tripe that followed... Within a few minutes it was clear that the presenter was either deluded or just plain mischievous. Maybe it was the heat? He stated that a PUE of less than 1.0 was ‘no problem’ and kept on interjecting that claim over the next 30 minutes. Slowly but not very surely it became evident that he didn’t understand what PUE was for or how it was defined. He rambled into the somewhat crazy idea that a biogas-powered CHP plant could ‘top-up’ a solar-PV installation – seemingly ignoring the fact that an on-site solar-PV array would not be practical for supplying any more than a few percent (way less than 5%) of a modern data centre’s energy demand. So the ‘top-up’ would be more than 95%. By then the sub-1.0 PUE claim became clearer – the guy was assuming that PUE only uses electrical energy input and was happy to substitute gas or oil or PV. But then came the clincher for proving the presenters’ total lack of awareness of his audience’s profile, let alone existence: He started to quote the old Greenpeace mantra that bangs on about ‘how dirty is your data’. However, he, for reasons I can’t imagine given that the majority of the audience were resplendent in their spotless white dish-dash and keffiyeh, used the expression ‘dirty, oily, data’! Not once, not twice, more – I lost count as I tried to gauge the audience reaction. Thankfully the lack of slides, the strong German accent and a growing level of disbelief in the audience allowed him to continue till his allotted time ended and then... seemingly pre-arranged, no time for questions! The audience drove home in various forms of exotic, and oily, V8’s, 10’s & 12’s with not a hybrid in sight. I thought the days had long passed when such crackpot presentations weren’t weeded out by the organisers... Just for the record, v2 of PUE and an excellent ‘review’ paper from The Green Grid explains all of the energy inputs that go into making sure that a PUE of less than 1.0 is not possible! The new ISO 30134-2 will also make abuse less possible as it based on v2 by TGG – although there is no protection from the likes of our dirty oily friend...

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