The two articles (so far; there may be more!) written by James Glanz certainly generated a lot of attention - they were among the most popular on the Times web site after publication, and generated hundreds of comments each from readers.
And of course that's not the only outlet for comment: see Rich Miller's piece on the Microsoft/Quincy article in Data Center Knowledge, and a passel of stories over at Data Center Dynamics (article here, and stinging commentary here and here).
But I'd like to take a moment to comment on this piece by Dan Woods, a contributor to Forbes.
Mr. Woods starts by saying that the opening article in the series conflates "internet" data centers with "enterprise" ones, painting the internet as culpable for the energy impacts rather than all data center operators. I suppose that's well and good, and I agree that the top dozen or two operators are pretty focused on efficiency (though I wouldn't call many of them "internet" companies).
Next we have a defense of low IT equipment utilization rates, with the quip that it would be "excellent" if someone would say what a high enough utilization rate would be. Here's my rejoinder: a lot bloody higher.
The highest utilization rate I've ever heard was from a search company (not for attribution) who said they were running in the low thirties. A major e-tailer claimed mid twenties. And yes, enterprise users are in that oft-cited 6 to 14 % range.
Mr. Woods compares these rates with the utilization of roads, telecom networks, and even newspapers. My comparison set would include any other electric appliance category, where energy use is zero when at idle. Yes virtualization can improve utilization, but implementation of true power management technology is dismally low in data centers of all stripes. Tackling this will I think be the next major area of focus for the industry.
Lastly, it is only very recently that the data center industry has become more open about sharing best practices related to energy efficiency, and certainly Facebook and their Open Compute Initiative deserve quite a bit of credit for that.
But the major players do continue to consider their operating practices to be a competetive advantage, and remain reluctant to report their data center locations, energy use, and carbon impacts. That's understandable in light of the criticism they're facing from environmental NGOs, and the undisputed fact that in their pursuit of cheap power, they are often buying from the dirtiest sources available.