Energy Star's savings plan

Report recommends ways data centers can significantly cut energy use by 2011

Power Down

The Energy Star program has organized its recommendations for conserving power use into three scenarios, which include their potential for saving energy by 2011. They include:

  • The improved-operation scenario incorporates enhancements beyond current trends that are operational in nature and require little or no capital investment. Energy savings: Up to 20 percent.

  • The best-practice scenario represents the efficiency gains that can be attained through the more widespread adoption of the most energy-efficient facilities' practices and technologies. Energy savings: Up to 45 percent.

  • The state-of-the-art scenario identifies the maximum energy-efficiency savings that could be achieved using available technologies. Energy savings: Up to 55 percent.
  • 'Our recommendations outline a pretty good path'to reduce energy consumption.' 'Andrew Fanara, Energy star

    GCN Photo by Rick Steele

    Agency officials could significantly improve the energy efficiency of federal computer servers and data centers in four years if they implement the best practices and technology recommendations outlined in a report sent to Congress this month, according to government and industry experts.

    The federal sector could save from $160 million to $510 million in electricity costs in 2011 if agencies adopt the procedures and technologies recommended in the report from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star program.
    Servers and data centers nationwide used about 61 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2006, roughly 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, the report states.

    Federal servers and data centers accounted for approximately 6 billion kWh, or 10 percent of that total, at a cost of about $450 million.

    EPA and industry stakeholders developed the 'Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency' (GCN.com/827) in response to federal legislation passed late last year.

    Spread the word

    Now that the report is public, 'we can set about the process of informing people what the recommendations are and put in place the processes to encourage the implementation of them,' said Andrew Fanara, the Energy Star program manager.
    All agencies are required by The Energy Policy Act of 2005 to reduce energy consumption in government facilities. The Energy Department's Federal Energy Management Program assists agencies with this effort, Fanara said.

    'The good news is our recommendations outline a pretty good path for any agency to work with their IT community and implement a strategic plan to reduce their energy consumption, or at least start with measuring their energy consumption,' Fanara added. 'That's the most important thing at the facility level.'

    'The next couple of years, you will probably see more of a move in the federal sector to implement best practices,' some of which are spelled out in the report, Fanara said. Best practices will vary depending on the facility and the type of computing performed at the location, he added.

    For example, if an agency has an existing data center, officials might want to tackle low-hanging fruit first, such as turning off comatose servers that are consuming power without being utilized.

    'We heard [reports where] there is sort of a natural risk aversion by the IT staff in data centers. Once servers get hooked up and progress through a useful life, it is very unlikely in many cases that they get unplugged,' he said.

    Implementing best energy-management practices in existing data centers and consolidating applications from many servers to one server could reduce current data center energy usage by around 20 percent, according to the report.
    After applying best practices, agency officials will need to adjust their procurement practices, ensuring that all new IT, power and air conditioning equipment is energy-efficient, Fanara said.

    Many technologies are commercially available or will soon be available that could improve the energy efficiency of processors, servers, storage devices, network equipment and infrastructure systems, the reports states.

    Network Appliances, a provider of storage devices, has been working with users to implement data management techniques to reduce power, space and cooling consumption. Company officials also worked with EPA on developing recommendations in the data center report.

    'We engaged with the EPA and other stakeholders to help them put together these recommendations,' said Brain Raymond, director of government affairs at NetApp.
    'We provided input on our technology and design of our data center and shared our best practices,' Raymond said.

    These recommendations will hopefully be implemented across the government in data centers and as officials procure equipment for these facilities, he said.
    To address issues related to space, cooling and power constraints, NetApp in 2006 embarked on a project to consolidate its storage infrastructure and implemented its own technology to better use storage capacity.

    As a result, NetApp reduced its amount of storage equipment and increased storage use from less than 40 percent to an average of 60 percent.

    'The federal government is the single largest buyer of energy in the United States and single largest buyer of IT equipment,' Fanara said. 'So if the federal sector can turn the tide and be more sustainable in [its] approaches, it should have some impact on the market as a whole and help increase demand and supply for more efficient technologies and practices.'

    About the Author

    Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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