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Why the EU’s ‘green’ data centre code has no teeth

The European Union has finally released it’s ‘Code of Conduct’ for data centres after nearly two years of consultations and other stuff bureaucrats in Brussels have to go through.

The code isn’t about the conduct of data centres – stopping them drinking and swearing in public, that kind of thing – but about energy efficiency.

Under the code, data centre owners and operators are invited to voluntarily sign up to have the energy efficiency of their operations measured and agree to an action plan and an annual progress report to the EU.
There’s even a calculation the EU has come up with for data centre infrastructure efficiency (DCiE), which is:

Main IT equipment energy consumption divided by total facility energy consumption, which is then multiplied by 100 per cent to give DCiE.

You can read more detail from the actual Code of Conduct itself here, which goes into more depth about what will be measured and ways that data centre energy efficiency can be improved.

But what will this grandiose sounding data centre code of conduct actually do? Not much, in Greenbang’s opinion.

The problems are:

  • This is voluntary. The code and any action recommended are voluntary to sign up to and not legally binding. Participants can also leave it at any stage without penalty.
  • Companies signing up to the code get to set the coverage (defining the data centres, building, sites at which energy efficiency actions will be undertaken) and nature (specifying the actions that the enterprise proposes to carry out at each location) of its commitment.
  • Vendors will use ‘signing up’ to the code of conduct as a green marketing tool, without it actually meaning they’ve had to make any great changes to the way they run their data centre operations.
  • With the pace that both IT and green technology changes it will be extremely difficult for the EU to maintain accurate or meaningful benchmarking and best practice data.

That hasn’t stopped politicians jumping on the bandwagon, with Lord Hunt, Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, calling for data centre operators to adopt the code, saying:

“If we are to tackle dangerous climate change, we need to reduce emissions and the decision businesses make play a key role in meeting this challenge. By signing up to this new code of conduct companies can save energy and save money too, which goes to show that what’s good for the environment is good for business.”


  • Richard Barrington
    Posted November 21, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Horse – Gate – Bolt( ed )

    There are rarely any procurement principles or standards applied that shape the current systems requirements to be more sustainable. So IT orders and procurement buys whatever.

    SWAP ( Space x Watts / performance of application eg SAP ) suggested by Sun Microsystems a couple of years ago starts to create a framework for the greening of IT by offering a direct comparision based on what you will use each system for.

    BUT without looking at materials, manufacturing, upgradability Vs. refresh cycles, disposal and recovery etc this deals with the direct consumption of energy but not the externalities ICT imposes on society. ( Server packaging anyone? )

  • Liam Newcombe
    Posted November 20, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Sorry, there are some comments here that should be clarified;
    The DCiE (Data Centre infrastructure Efficiency) is neither new nor invented by the EU. It is an established data centre metric developed by the Green Grid and in common use, with it’s reciprocal the PUE, all over the world by data centre operators. Whilst it is recognised that there are well understood limitations to utility of this and other metrics it currently exists, is well recognised and provides a base for measurement. Further the code requires the energy use data and not simply the metric from participants.
    Whilst an operator can select which data centres to include as a participant they are required to meet a minimum standard. It has been our experience that very few operators are in a position to meet the expected minimum practices without changes to their operational processes. Signing up to the code as a participant will require significant changes for most operators. New facilities face a higher minimum standard.
    The best practices define not only the expected minimum standard but also many other identified, peer reviewed and agreed energy practices. This provides customers with a formal, objective and effective basis for comparison and assessment of potential suppliers. It is otherwise difficult to determine what is real action and what is marketing.
    The best practices contain input and review from the broadest base of expertise and will continue to be developed as technology and practices advance. It is the intent to drive and increase the pace of change in the industry and we have already seen the best practices deliver this in operators trialling the code.

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