A Data Center Critic, NYTimes's James Glanz role in Industry

I've entertained the idea of writing content as a critic, but decided I didn't want that role.

a : one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique

Being a critic is not fun.  At least I don't think it is fun.  Slate has a post on life as a critic.

Being a critic isn’t anyone’s childhood dream, an occupation that schools set out a booth for on Career Day, a religious calling that glimmers in the goldenrod.


To creatives, the Critic is the undermining inner voice maliciously put on the intercom to tell the whole world (or at least the tiny portion of it that still cares), You’re no good, you were never any good; your mother and I tried to warn you this novel was a mistake, but, no, you wouldn’t listen, Mister-Insists-He-Has-Something-to-Say. Failed artists consider critics failed artists like themselves, but worse, because unlike them they took the easy way out by not even trying to succeed, critics not having the guts to climb into that Teddy Roosevelt arena that everyone likes to invoke as the crucible of character, or risk the snows of Kilimanjaro.


Journalistic critics such as myself were, are, and forever will be routinely disparaged as parasites, sore losers, serial slashers, Texas tower snipers, and eunuchs at the orgy (what orgy? where is this orgy we seem to have missed?), which would hurt our feelings, if we brutes had any.

You can view NYTimes's James Glanz as a critic of the data center industry, pointing out areas where mistakes are made.

Being a critic means you are now a target for others to analyze your criticism.   Here is a post by a non data center person making an observation.  Larry starts off with a good skill of a critic, humor.

Stop The Presses: Computers Run On Electricity

By  Oct 2, 2012, 7:26 AM Author's Website

It is not easy for news organizations to support investigative journalism in this era of stagnant advertising, shrinking audiences and staff buyouts. So I’m not quite sure what to say to The New York Times for breaking the story that the Internet runs on electricity.

Thank you?


Most people probably don’t care, for the same reasons they don’t care about the nuts and bolts of all sorts of infrastructure. They just expect things to work.

The author identifies the hype factor.

Articles that lack a lot of news often resort to a lot of hype. This is especially apt to happen if a reporter has spent a year reporting a story that turns out to be not much of a story. And so it was with the first article in Glanz’s series, which resorted to straw men in order to drum up some excitement.

and how nuclear plants were added to the article, not natural gas powered plants or renewable energy plants to emphasize the evilness of data centers.

People are concerned about nuclear power, so nuclear power was worth mentioning. “Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times.” What about the equivalent output of windmills or solar panels? Would that be better?

Larry identifies that low utilization is an issue, but have you checked out the utilization of your PC lately?  People should be restricted to PCs that have a 50% utilization or higher.  No.  That is when an upgrade was long over due . If users can't stand a 50% utilization on their PCs or smartphones how can they tolerate a high utilization experience from the cloud?

The newspaper also devoted considerable space to the idea that most servers in a typical data farm are doing very little work most of the time. That’s true, and it’s inefficient, and it is probably avoidable in many situations. So the server farms’ inefficiency is a fair point to make, but it also inherent in most forms of computing.

If you check the metering program that is probably installed on your own PC, you will likely find that most of your computing power is being consumed by the “idle process.” The central processing unit is waiting around for someone to do something. Your disk drive also spends most of its time lazily spinning, waiting for a program to ask it to read or write some data. Each server in a server farm is a PC that has been stripped down to its basics: a CPU, a disk drive and a network card, all more powerful than the ones in a basic home computer. The servers have no screens and no keyboards. They wait until they are called upon to serve.

Larry make the point that the NYTimes does not have perspective.

The main thrust of the series is that server farms consume a lot of power, but how much, really? Perspective is sorely lacking. Glanz pointed out that server farms consume more power than the paper industry, as though the Internet is simply about displacing paper consumption. That leaves a lot of variables out of the equation.

And closes with a good point.

My guess is that the Internet, on the whole, has been as much an environmental boon as an economic one. I would be interested in an investigative series that tells me otherwise, but that isn’t the series that Glanz and The Times produced.

As with any young and fast-growing industry, efficiency takes a backseat to performance in the initial rush to keep up with demand. Fine-tuning for efficiency will come later. Right now, our greatest achievement is creating a world where users can get the data they want and need, wherever they are, whenever they want it. The Internet’s plumbing is about as newsworthy as that of the average sewage treatment plant, as long as they both do their intended jobs.

James Glanz has fulfilled the role of a data center critic, we'll see how many people are in line to do the same.  Roll call.  Anyone.  Anyone.  Anyone want to be a critic of the data center industry?