Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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Telcos Can Learn from Datacenter Giants 

When it comes to energy reporting, telcos have some lessons to learn from the more-established datacenter operators. 

Considering the prominence of mobile devices and the explosion in data, it was only a matter of time until telcos moved into the datacenter game, but how do these relative newcomers stack up to long-time datacenter operators, like eBay and Facebook?

According to a recent article at Light Reading, when it comes to energy reporting, telcos have some lessons to learn from the more-established datacenter operators. The author makes the case that by focusing mainly on a single metric, PUE, telecommunications providers are falling short.

The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric has become the default standard for measuring the overall "green" health of a datacenter. It was originally developed by the Green Grid to improve energy efficiency in the ICT industry, but it was never intended to be used in cross-company comparisons.

One problem with it is that a company could obtain a perfect score but still get all of their energy from coal. Another issue with it is that as facilities change and improve their energy efficiency, the rating could actually go even higher – leaving a company that bases its success on PUE with little incentive to make green changes.

According to Tom Raftery, Principal Analyst at GreenMonk, "That's the fatal flaw of PUE. It's designed to measure the efficiency of a facility, not the IT equipment."

Companies like Facebook and eBay are going well beyond the call of duty to find other ways to gain insight into their power utilization.

These Web giants have been adding additional criteria to gain a better understanding of their datacenter performance. For instance, instead of just using PUE, they are also incorporating their overall carbon output as well as the total amount of water that they use for cooling. By doing this, they can get a much more in-depth and detailed look at their energy consumption than if they were to just use the PUE metric.

While they've been in charge of large internal IT departments for some time, the telcos' role as external datacenter operator has grown stronger in response to the proliferation of cloud-based applications and content-delivery networks. It's unclear whether telcos plan to adopt greener energy strategies and more comprehensive reporting, although Sprint told Light Reading that it had no such plans and would continue to focus on absolute reductions and PUE for the foreseeable future.

While this is a start, they could improve and add additional measures and make more of a commitment to renewable energy. It's uncertain whether or not they'll branch out and go the extra yard like Facebook and eBay at this point but telcos could learn a lot from these companies. Even if they can't afford the same energy-efficient datacenters, they can take similar steps toward measuring their energy output.

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