Sunday 9 August 2020

Musings on the Data Centre of the Future - Part 1

We've been working in the field of Green IT for over 10 years now, and its been an interesting journey.

Some readers will know that I had my "Road to Damascus" in 2003, when I visited the Eden Project in Cornwall, we'd spent the day walking through the tropical and semi arid desert biomes and the external areas and on our depature, we had to exit via the shop. The shop was full of all the sorts of things you'd expect a living laboratory site to have, books about gardening, tools, sustainably sourced knick knacks etc etc etc. However, there was one single item hidden high on a shelfing unit that did make me "double take" it was a recycled circuit board, something that had failed final inspection, and instead of throwing it in a landfill, or indeed sending it with a load more electronic waste and dump it in Africa or China, someone had decided that it would make an excellent plate or mouse mat.

I remember looking at it, and thinking thats a terrible way for a computer to die, there must be something better we can do with obselete or surplus computing equipment.

That moment, was my conversion, from a systems engineer working for a major UK MSP, I spent the next 6 years making my plans, I would seek to obtain a degree from the Open University, that covered the environmental issues and perhaps add development and climate change aspects to the problem, I graduated in 2010 with a BSc (Hons) Tech with environment and development (Open) degree, and started my own "Sustainable IT consultancy, Carbon3IT Ltd in August 2009 and we officially opened in Jan 2010.

The last 11 years or so have been the most satisfying of my career to date, I've travelled to places (paid by other people) that I'd never thought I ever get to, Sydney, Hong Kong, Sao Paolo, Austin, most of Europe just for starters, I walked around some interesting data centres, some great, some in need of a lot of energy efficiency attention.

Anyway, I digress, the purpose of this post is to muse on the data centre of the future.

Now, many commentators of all things data centre will go on record and state that the data centre of the future looks very much like the data centre of today and to be honest there is a lot of credence that should be paid to those that have this point of view, it is a very practical approach, and given that data centres are designed to last between 15-20 years, a valid one.

However, this is very 20th Century thinking, and we have to consider the wider aspects of energy security, climate change and to determine exactly what we are doing with our IT systems and question some of the traditional facts.

So, where can we find a "blueprint" that can make us really think about our ICT systems and how we deliver them?

The EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency) is the best thing I have come across that can assist us in our quest.

Put simply, it forms the basis of a radical strategic and cultural change programme that will yield significant benefits across the entire corporate landscape, reducing cost, reducing energy consumption and thus carbon emissions, and combined with the 5 major ISO Management Systems, making the organisation, leaner, fitter and with the necessary control systems to deal with literally anything that can be thrown at it.

During the EURECA project, we identified the Magnificent 7, a toolbox of data centre standards, guidelines and ISO management systems that all prudent DC operators should follow that can help them acheive an ICT ECO-SYSTEM that actively reduces energy and carbon, meets business goals and most impending or current regulation and provides a roadmap to the future.

So, what are the Magnificent 7?

ISO9001 Quality Management Systems

ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems

ISO22301 Buiness Continuity Management Systems

ISO 27001 Information Security Management Systems

ISO50001 Energy Management Systems

EN Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency)

EN 50600 Series of Data Centre Design, Build and Operate Standards

The ISO Management Standards speak for themselves, the correct application of the requirements of each standard (and obviously, the integration of common areas) build a foundation of excellence.

However, and I believe that this is a major problem, too many organisations pay lip service to the "spirit" of the standard and fail to really understand what the system is for, they often see it as a necessary evil, that they only undertake "certification" to meet other procurement or tender requirements.

But, if they really understand what the Standard is designed to achieve and implemented the requirements correctly, then the organisation will be able to meet the energy and carbon legislation, reduce cost, and meet business goals.

The EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency), provides for a radical strategic and cultural change, briefly, as the actual implementation actions that can be taken, are our USP and we charge for it! are as follows:

Management, Section 3 of the EUCOC covers Data Centre Utilisation, Management and Planning, in this section we see that the very 1st best practice is the "enabler" of all the others, it is quite simply "group involvement" in essence, gather a group of people that touch the data centre, you could call them stakeholders and have regular meetings so that everybody knows what everyone else is doing , this helps prevent those Friday night emergencies, when someone in the business has ordered loads of kit and whats it up and running by Monday morning, but didn't tell you. So, in order to fulfill this request you have to run and around and organise, new power, new connectivity and the installation of this kit.

It's in this section where we see the introduction of the "concept" of the management systems, note that I did not say ISO Management systems, merely management systems and this is because the EUCOC is  NOT Prescriptive. Indeed, we mention 3 specific management systems, an Environmental, an Energy and an Asset management system, we point to the ISOs but do not specify that they should be an ISO certificated system.

We also introduce the concept of sustainable energy usage, alternative power generation technologies,  management of air quality, conscise documentation, and a comprehensive training and development programme for staff.

In section 3.3 we bring into play, the concept of thinking about resilience levels, lean provisioning and part load concepts.

Section 4 is all about the IT with best practices on procurement, temperature and humidity ranges for new equipment (so, you can begin to operate at the higher ASHRAE levels and reap energy savings.)

Section 4.2 is IT deployment, software efficiency etc.

4.3 talks about the management of the existing estate, audit the physical and virtual estates, perhaps you've got "server creep" some virtual machines may have been fired up by a dev team and used for a project, that project finished 3 years ago, but you've still got these VMs cluttering up your stack. A comprehensive audit can identify targets for optimisation.

4.4 is all about the data, essentially, what have we got, where is it, and do we need it anymore? can we reduce our storage energy bill by the prudent management of that data?

Section 5, the largest section of the EUCOC contains the best practices appertaining to Cooling, and covers, Air Flow Management & Design, Cooling Management, Temp and Humidity Settings, Cooling Plant, CRAC/Hs, Direct Liquid Cooling and the reuse of DC waste heat.

6, is all about power, specifically UPS.

7 is other DC equipment, lighting, and having sensors to report back temp/humidity, energy etc to an advanced DCiM.

Section 8 is the building itself, like a feasibility or site location exercise, but not quite, covering some design/build principles, location stuff and water issues, but to be honest the EN 50600, 2-1 Building construction covers them in more detail.

Section 9 is the Monitoring section, and as we all know, you cannot manage what you cannot measure, so this section provides the detail and what, where and how you should be measuring all the data points within the DC.

Section 10 covers the best practices that will be implemented in following editions, so for instance, in the 2020 edition (v11) there is one best practice, 5.7.5 Capture Ready Infrastructure "Consider installing "Capture Ready Infrastructure to take advantage of, and distribute available waste heat during new build and retrofit projects. Section 5.7.x is the Reuse of Data Centre waste heat section.

Section 11 are Items under consideration, what this section is, is essentially a holding area for proposed best practices, pending additional information, sector feedback or the development of a new technology, so for instance, in the 2020 edition (v11) there are 3 best practices, the first is software efficiency development definitions and/or metrics this has been located in this section since the EUCOC began in 2009 and really is a souce of embarassment as the software community really haven't grasped the mettle and come up with any definitions or metrics.

Two new best practices were added to this section in 2019, both by myself, under the remit of the CATALYST Project  the first is Network Energy use, this is basically a request for organisations to calculate the "hidden" energy when they move to the Cloud or colocation service, if you take your equipment and locate it elsewhere, your users will expend more energy than if it was located on your site, it may not seem much, but there are two aspects to this, one is the energy cost itself (although this is borne by others (your carriers and the telecommunication operators, and secondly, to identify all the possible SPOF points. Although the internet is self-healing there are some SPOF points.

The second is to be aware of, and plan for energy flexibility or energy storage services that may arise from any Smart Grid implementations in your local area, as a large energy user, you will be in the Utilities crosshairs.

So, there we have it, the first musings on the Data Centre of the Future and my belief that we actually already have the foundations already laid, we now need to build on them and that will be the topic for the second part of my musings on the Data Centre of the Future, whcih will probably be published in late September/Early October.

Thursday 21 May 2020

Lockdown blues...

nah, not in Carbon3IT Towers!

We're very busy at the moment and have a number of time critical tasks that are er, time critical so I really shouldn't be "blogging" but its a nice day, so...

Its time for a little update, we continue to work with the CATALYST project and you can see the fruits of our labours in the new project website, which you can find here this new sharper, quicker site is a coproduction between the project (in the guise of my good self) and Cobra Systems, a Dutch member of Green IT Amsterdam  more info here
I, in my role as project manager for the project on behalf of Green IT Amsterdam, where I am under contract as their "in house" data centre consultant, scoped the brief, provided content and have been the admin webmaster for the past few weeks, i think it looks and feels great and we'd love your feedback.

We're also using Cobra to design and build a new website for the CATALYST Green Data Centre Roadmap, which you can see below:

This map has an associated Green Data Centre Handbook, which is the, ahem, time critical task that I'm supposed to be doing instead of writing this article!

The new GDCR website will feature an "interactive" version of the roadmap and access to the
handbook as well as some other interesting stuff which will remain secret for now.
The Cobra team and myself, finalised most of the design earlier this week and we expect to have a provisional release by mid June, and a public version ready by the end of June, it should be noted that we have been working on this since early January, but the coronavirus and travel restrictions plus work on the main website has sucked out a lot of our planning time, still we're nearly there and I'm very excited about the project, not just for the CATALYST project itself but for the wider datacentre industry.

We're, that is Green IT Amsterdam, are finalising another datacentre project, funded by Horizon 2020 which will start in September, so in essence, we have another 3 years of work with Green IT Amsterdam on this new project to look forward to, we'll keep you informed via our usual social media feeds.

On the CEEDA front, we finalised and released the last CEEDA conducted before lockdown and it was quite hairy! I'd travelled to Brindisi on the 8th March, conducted the assessment on the 9th and was due to fly back on the 10th, when lockdown hit Italy, not the northern area but the entire country, I found out via text message from a good friend and client on the 9th in the evening, cue much angst from the family, but it turned out alright in the end, I flew back the following morning (10th) and then spent 14 days in self-isolation, missing, much to my annoyance, the Data Centre World event in London.

So, whats the outlook for Carbon3IT ? Surprisingly good, we have a training session and CEEDA assessment scheduled for October, our partners at DCD have had a lot of enquiries for CEEDA post lockdown, we've been asked to present and host at a number of data centre events scheduled to take place in Q3/4 of course many of which have already been moved from their original dates due to corona, and now rescheduled, all of which are pending lockdown and the suspension of travel restrictions. We'll be working on CATALYST until September, possibly longer and we have our new project, so all good.

So, until next time, wash those hands and keep safe.

Wednesday 25 March 2020

International Data Centre Day - 25th March 2020

First of all, a massive shout out to all those involved in Data Centres, be it, operations, construction, or consultancy, that are working so hard to keep the internet running globally, the connected world depends on it.

Not to forget, the millions of healthcare professional globally fighting the coronavirus.

Data Centres process data, the data that runs banks, logistics, academia, governments and almost every aspect of modern life, use a contactless card to buy groceries?, you will route through a data centre, buy on the web? the web and data centres enable not only the ability to view millions of items, but also to pay for it, conducting research? perhaps on the Coronavirus? Data Centres house the data and do the number crunching. Doing maths homework, the application will be running in a data centre and may route through multiple smaller data centres to get to your home.

Here, at Carbon3IT Ltd we work in supporting data centres with a number of  services including ad-hoc training, consultancy, compliance on the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency) (EUCOC), ISOs including ISO9001 (Quality), ISO14001 (Environmental) ISO22301 (Business Continuity) ISO27001 (Information Security) and finally ISO50001 (Energy) Management Systems.

We are also ESOS Lead Assessors.

We can provide guidance on EN50600. We work in standards development, primarily the EUCOC and EN 50600.

We also conduct data centre audits, for EUCOC, CEEDA (Certified Energy Efficiency Data Centres Award) and for EN 50600 Gap Analysis.

We wish all data centres, their employees, the supply chain and use the very best International Data Centre Day 2020!

Keep safe, and wash those hands!

Wednesday 4 March 2020

EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency) v11 Update

The 2020 version of the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency) was published in January, however due to an oversight the reporting form had not been updated until earlier today.

Below is a conscise list of EVERY change made to the reporting form.

New applicants are advised to download all the guidance documentation before completing the forms, (or seek expert advice from ourselves) existing participants should use the latest 2020 reporting form v11 when published, to advise the EU-JRC of progress against all best practices and any action plans, as well as provide updated energy data.

Given the recent EU announcements that "data centres can and should be climate neutral by 2030" and that they are considering measures, it is highly recommended that all data centres in the EU and UK consider becoming a participant in the EUCOC as soon as possible.

This recommendation applies to all hyperscale, colocation and enterprise sites.

All the documents can be downloaded from this link

Carbon3IT Ltd has been working with the EU-JRC since 2012, we sit on the best practices committee and provide under contract, the review services for all participants.

However, we also provide pre-EUCOC reviews and can complete the application and reporting forms on your behalf for a set fee (currently £3000+VAT per site, discounts are available for multiple sites) in whch case we will inform the EU-JRC that we have provided this service and an alternate reviewer will be engaged.
To date we have completed 40 EUCOC applications on behalf of global clients and all have been accepted on initial application.

The best practices for 2020 have been updated as follows:

3.3.2 Practice Updated
3.2.4 Practice Updated
3.2.5 Practice Updated
3.2.6 Practice Updated
3.2.8 Practice Updated
3.2.12 Practice Updated 
3.2.13 Practice Updated
3.2.14 Practice has become MANDATORY and Note Updated
3.2.15 Practice has become MANDATORY and Note Updated

4.1.1 Practice Updated
4.1.2 Practice Updated
4.1.3 Practice Updated
4.1.4 Practice Updated
4.1.6 Practice Updated
4.1.10 Practice Updated
4.1.11 Practice Updated
4.1.14 Practice Updated
4.1.15 Practice Updated

4.2.6 Practice Updated
4.2.8 *New Practice* 

4.3.2 Practice Updated
4.3.5 Practice Updated
4.3.6 Practice Updated

4.4.4 Practice Updated

5.1.3 Practice has become MANDATORY and Updated

5.2.6 Practice Updated

5.6.1 Practice renumbered (previously

5.7.1 Practice renumbered (previously 5.6.1)
5.7.2 Practice renumbered (previously 5.6.2
5.7.3 Practice renumbered (previously 5.6.3)
5.7.4 Practice renumbered (previously 5.6.4)

8.3.3 Practice updated
9.2.2 Practice has become MANDATORY for new build/retrofit and updated

Please also note that there are 3 new best practices scheduled for publication next year, these are

5.7.5 Capture Read Infrastructure - 

Consider installing ‘Capture Ready’ Infrastructure to take advantage of, and distribute, available waste heat during new build and retrofit projects.

This is scheduled to become a mandatory best practice from 2021

11.2 Network Energy Use - 

When purchasing new cloud services or assessing a cloud strategy, assess the impact on network equipment usage and the potential increase or decrease in energy consumption with the aim of being to inform purchasing decisions.

The minimum scope should include inside the data centre only.
The ambition is to include overall energy consumption and energy efficiency including that related to multiple site operation and the network energy use between those sites.

11.3 Smart Grid - 

Continue to evaluate the use of energy storage and usage to support Smart Grid. A Smart Grid is a solution that employs a broad range of information technology resources, allowing for a potential reduction in electricity waste and energy costs

Wednesday 26 February 2020

The Phoney War is over....

Back in 2008, the British Computer Society, Chartered Institute for IT, the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs (DeFRA) and the EU - Joint Research Centre launched the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency) also known as the EUCOC, comprising of 2 parts, the first a series of best practices for data centre operators to use, to really optimise their facilties using a combination of tangible (those that you can touch such as blanking panels, or change, such as temperature settings) and intangible (such as changes to policy, processes and procedures covering procurement, service take on, and management) And the second, a scheme for those using (participants) or promoting (endorsing) the EUCOC.

To date, there are some 350+ Data Centre "participants" from various organisations, a combination of colocation, hyperscale and enterprise organisations, and 250+ "endorsers" covering consultancies, organisations, trade bodies and suppliers to the industry.
There are annual reporting requirements for both participants and endorsers.
Participants are required to report (by the end of February) energy consumption information, whether any new best practice has been adopted and progress against an action plan which is formulated on intial application.
Endorsers are required to report any "endorsing" actions taken place annually from the anniversary of their initial application.

From the initial application, data is extracted from the reporting forms and is used as the input into a report from the reviewer (currently ourselves) to the EU-JRC on a regular but not annual basis.
Energy consumption data is tabulated and forms inputs into research conducted by the working group, where it is used to provide support to policy makers with the EC and EP.

As we are not party to the annual update participants data or the endorser annual reports we cannot report on the frequency or accuracy of any information passed to the EU-JRC.

However, many of our readers will know that we provide pre-EUCOC reviews and in some cases actually complete the reporting forms and participation applications on behalf of clients as a paid for service, currently £3000+VAT per site, although discounts are available for multiple sites.

Readers will also know that the EUCOC best practices, but not the scheme, have been adopted by the CEN/CENELEC/ETSI standards body as a technical report under the EN 50600 series of Data Centres, design, build and operator standards and available from national standards bodies as "PD CLC/TR 50600-99-1:2019"

So, why sign up and provide the energy data etc? Well, it was felt, and in some EU member states actually implemented, that public sector procurement of data centre and data centres services (such as cloud) would require, as a scoring element of the tender process, that the data centre had to be a participant of the EUCOC. This is certainly the case for the UK G-Cloud and other EU national governments, although not actively policed.

It should also be noted that the scheme is VOLUNTARY!

From our own work with CEEDA (which is an external (paid for) assessment based upon a subset of the EUCOC and ISO30134/EN50600 KPIs), we have over the last 8 yrs or so visited 60 CEEDA sites, compiled around 20 EUCOC reporting forms on behalf of clients, and reviewed some 200 participant application forms on behalf of the EU-JRC and discussions with colleagues in the industry where we discuss energy efficiency and the implementation of the best practices, especially the intangible elements, it has to be said that, some, but not all of our clients are paying lip service to the EUCOC and it could be argued merely ticking boxes with little or no intention of acting upon the action plan that we create.

There are many reasons for this, primarily client SLA's or indifference, a lack of skills within the organisation, lack of funding, or indifference from senior managers and this is understandable when there is no external compulsion such as regulation or the need for an operating licence.

The past 12 years or so, can now be considered the "phoney war" as it is clear, in light of the recent announcement from the EU regarding the Green Deal, especially the following statement...

"Yet it is also clear that the ICT sector also needs to undergo its own green transformation. The environmental footprint of the sector is significant, estimated at 5-9% of the world’s total electricity use and more than 2% of all emissions. Data centres and telecommunications will need to become more energy efficient, reuse waste energy, and use more renewable energy sources. They can and should become climate neutral by 2030. 

that the phoney war is over and that we can expect measures from the EU to persuade data centres to actively up their game,  and that they will be required to become more energy efficient (and there are a couple of methods for this but at the core is the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres (Energy Efficiency) and other EU polices such as EMAS and BEMP, reuse waste heat and use more renewable energy sources.)

All of these 3 elements are contained in the CATALYST project which we are working on, on behalf of Green IT Amsterdam, more information on the website

We'll be on the road talking about the project and wider aspects of the potential policy changes at the following events:

Data Centre World London March 11/12th 
Data Centre Forum Oslo March 19th
DCD Energy Smart Stockholm April 27/28th
DDI/UN Copenhagen May 15th

Check out the CATALYST project website for more event info here

We've been working in this area for the past 10 yrs and have built up a wealth of exprience and knowledge in the field, so if you need any practical advice contact us on or send us a message on linked in or twitter feed.