Insidious PUE

    PUE, a rather controversial, but no less interesting parameter for the energy efficiency of the data center, recently received another blow to its credibility as a universal measure of the optimality of energy consumption. NGD (Next Generation Data) has announced that their data center will achieve a PUE of 1.0! What is it? A fundamental breakthrough in technology, marketing manipulation is not a very quick ratio, or an outright lie? Later in this article, we’ll try to look into such a non-trivial statement about achieving incredible PUE made by Nick Razey, CEO of NGD, last week in London.

    “Say what you want, but don’t call my statement marketing profanity,” was Nick Rasey’s answer when he was sharply asked at an IT conference in London about the energy efficiency ratio voiced by his company at his Welsh data center in Newport.

    The data center located in the west of the country is undoubtedly green, but guaranteed by customers in the PUE 1.0 contracts concluded is very bold, if not reckless. No one has yet canceled the lawsuits.

    After reviewing the information provided there, you can clearly see that there is no catch, there is no misunderstanding: “Guaranteed energy efficiency of contract PUE for data center 1.0 - this is by far the highest level of energy efficiency among all data centers analyzed using this technique” .

    The CEO of NGD generally calls his data center “First in the World” for this indicator. Here he, of course, was right; there were no such precedents. But the whole problem is that, strictly speaking, this is impossible.

    As you know, the PUE value is defined as the ratio of the total power consumed by the entire data center to the power consumed directly by IT equipment, which is involved in the processing and storage of data from this data center. Based on this logic, the declared coefficient of 1.0 means that all the electricity supplied to the data center is consumed exclusively on server racks and is not used anywhere else in the structure, including lighting, air conditioning, cooling server racks.

    The sounded situation is obviously impossible. Achieved by titanic efforts, the result of modern IT infrastructure temples in the PUE 2.0 area is an objective reality. The best indicator on this field at the moment has reached data centers from Facebook. For example, a data center located in Princeville (USA) as a result of incredible efforts and complex technical solutions maintains its PUE value at a phenomenal level of 1.08! With this state of affairs, a logical question arises: how does the NGD contract guarantee such a high value of the coefficient?

    Located in Wales, the data center with an area of ​​nearly 70,000 square meters is the largest data center in Europe. Its main needs for power are provided by a 35 kV line, which stretches from a nearby hydroelectric power station. The data center building itself was erected back in 1990 by LG to create semiconductors, but the corporation never launched its production there. Using the fact that the building inherited a spacious flat roof from a typical industrial facility, NGD engineers placed an entire solar farm on it. This is a very reasonable step, because according to Nick, solar panels can generate "up to a million kilowatt hours per year." Thus, by supplying energy to the network, the solar station will cover its own needs for energy consumption.

    The installed ventilation system of the server rooms is very progressive. The latest development, presented by one of the leaders on the market, allows you to very accurately monitor the temperature in the rooms and supply the necessary amount of air to the right place, which minimizes the energy consumption for its operation.

    Although NGD has its own solar power plant, it is, of course, not enough for the functioning of the data center. As one of Amazon's engineers, James Hamilton, previously noted: “On the latitude of North Carolina, an average of 362 square meters of solar panels are needed to operate one square meter of server racks.”
    Whether the claimed million kilowatt-hours per year from solar panels is enough to cover at least the operational needs of the data center is still not clear. Director General of NGD Nick Rasey claims that it’s more than enough, and that it is this electricity generated by the panels that will provide consumers with their services the contract PUE 1.0, which, in fact, was discussed.

    After such an interpretation of the coefficient by the CEO of NGD, as one would expect, an avalanche of criticism fell on him from colleagues in the industry. Professor Ian Bitterlin, Technical Director of Emerson Network Power, commented on this somewhat indignantly: “Such interpretations of PUE are absolutely incorrect, and moreover, they run counter to common sense, because part of the incoming electricity is deliberately deducted.” Clive Longbottom, a technical analyst, wasn’t so delayed in terms and called all the hype with NGD “green fraud” and the nickname “Marketing profanity” that hurt Nick Rasey.

    But even after such a cold "reception" by Nick's IT community of ideas, he does not repent of his deed and insists on his own. “We built a modern data center using the most advanced technologies. If we consider it PUE according to the classical scheme, then we came to the coefficient 1.18. The fact that our additional investment in solar panels now allows us to receive free energy and to cover part of the needs of the data center with it, enables us to honestly offer our customers voiced contracts. “It is our right to offer contracts, the cost of which will include energy costs only for the functioning of server racks.” Further parrying the attacks in his direction, Nick frankly summed up: “With common sense, everything is fine with us, and he tells us that if we had more capacities of renewable energy at the facility,

    Are NGD employees so wrong in interpreting the numbers? Obviously, in the pursuit of sensation, for the desire to get to the front pages of online publications, all this mess was brewed. Leaving everyone with their own opinions, the topic itself and the issues that arise along with it unwittingly give us a reason to think, and most importantly, once again show the convention and weaknesses of the universal measure of energy efficiency of data centers.

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