European Data Centre Rules Are On Their way

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

You might not want the EU meddling, but Peter Judge says the data centre industry must get involved or suffer bad regulations

The European Union is gearing up to issue regulations about energy use in data centres. This might feel like a threat, but the industry is going to have to accept this, get involved, and try to make sure we get rules that work.

The European Union has carbon reduction targets, and DG Connect (formerly DG13, the directorate run by EU vice president Neelie Kroes, and responsible for the digital agenda), wants to make sure that the digital industries play their part in reaching them.

Get involved in data centre rules

TEuropean commissioner for competion, Dutch,  Neelie Kroeshis will mean some sort of rules on data centre efficiency. A few people see this as EU “meddling”, but it is bound to happen – simply as a recognition that data centres are significant to the economy – and the environment.

DG Connect is involved in regulations about hazardous e-waste, and citizens’ privacy (with the “right to be forgotten”), among many other things. Here’s another aspect of tech, it is saying. We must get involved.

The EU estimates that tech is using eight percent of Europe’s electricity – a figure which includes TVs, phones and other consumer products, as well as data centres. As a whole the region has carbon reduction targets, and data centres will be asked to play their part.

At this stage, there’s a danger of ill-informed rules, or lobbying by special interests. But in April, DG Connect met with industry bodies to discuss the options for regulation – and an impressive array of groups contributed.

Industry group TechUK was there, along with people from the BCS (British Computer Society) specialist group that helped produce the EU Code of Conduct – probably the best guide to data centre efficiency.

From what I hear, it seems that industry people had to remind the EU folks that they have carried out their own successful work in the area already (the Code of Conduct), and that data centers already pay green levies through things like CRC and the European ETS.

Fundamentally, if there’s an explosion of energy use by IT, then data centres are a symptom, not the cause. They are already making massive strides to reduce energy use – driven by the costs.

These initiatives are going best in the shared data centre space; if there is a part of the data centre space which is lagging, it would be the in-house facilities, especially smaller ones, and those which don’t break out power bills. Any EU regulations will have to be aware of that.

They may also have to address the issue of measuring productivity of data centres – something beyond the blunt instrument of PUE.

A year ago, people hoped that EU data centre regulations could be averted if service providers all voluntarily signed up to the EU Code of Conduct, but the increasing popularity of the Code hasn’t been enough to fend off the Eurocrats.

At least the legislators have asked for help, and the industry associations have already shown what they can do working with the UK’s tax authorities, so there’s a chance things could end well.

For now though, let’s wish them luck. To paraphrase an old quote, for bad regulations to appear, all that is necessary is for good men (and women) to do nothing.

A version of this story appeared on Green Data Center News.

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