Agencies look to cut energy use with green machines, streamlined data centers and more efficient networks.
- By Rutrell Yasin
- Nov 13, 2008
THE ENERGY DEPARTMENT, with its array of world-class
supercomputers, is home to some of the largest energy-using
facilities in government. However, DOE also is leading the charge
toward reducing power consumption and moving toward
DOE is the first ' and only ' federal agency to
receive green status for electronics stewardship on the Office of
Management and Budget's Environment Report Card, officials
In fiscal 2007, more than 95 percent of DOE's computer and
monitor purchases conformed to Electronic Product Environmental
Assessment Tool (EPEAT) criteria, meaning that they met stringent
environmental requirements. Plus, during that time, more than 97
percent of DOE's surplus and end-of-life electronics were
reused or recycled.
By the end of 2009, DOE officials expect to have converted about
13 percent to 14 percent of its computers to thin client/smart
monitors, giving the department the ability to cut energy
consumption by more than 55 percent when server support is added to
the mix, department officials said.
Government mandates and rising electricity costs are leading
senior managers at agencies such as DOE to reduce energy use, often
by containing power and energy consumption in data centers and
Information technology departments 'are taking on the
responsibility of managing their energy bills,' said Andy
Lausch, senior director of federal sales at CDW Government.
'Every IT professional that has ownership of their energy
bills is doing something about it.'
Also, developers of IT systems and gear have expanded their
efforts to deliver technologies designed to reduce energy
A variety of systems management software is available to help IT
managers better monitor and manage power consumption in computers
and other data center equipment, such as heating, ventilating and
air conditioning (HVAC) and power distribution systems.
The virtualization of applications, servers and storage systems
' effective in consolidating data centers, reducing costs and
freeing space in facilities ' also has the added benefit of
reducing power consumption. Networking vendors also have jumped on
the green bandwagon, designing more energy-efficient routers,
switches and other networking devices and adding power management
The EPEAT approach
Under Executive Order 13423, signed in January 2007, federal
agencies must purchase products registered with EPEAT, unless there
is no EPEAT standard for that product; enable the Energy Star
features such as power management on electronic assets; extend the
useful life of electronic assets; and use environmentally sound
practices to dispose of electronic assets that have reached the end
of their life cycles.
The EPEAT registry helps agencies and businesses evaluate,
compare and select technology products based on their environmental
attributes, such as whether they meet the Environmental Protection
Agency's latest Energy Star energy-efficiency requirements.
The registry includes desktop computers and monitors.
'We were among the earliest adopters of EPEAT,' said
Jeff Eagan, electronics stewardship coordinator at DOE's
Office of Environmental Policy and Assistance. 'We actually
put EPEAT purchasing requirements into our regulations eight to 12
months before the program was even launched.'
DOE officials are starting to quantify the benefits of moving to
EPEAT-certified products, he added. Officials plan to evaluate the
energy savings along with greenhouse gas reduction requirements,
Eagan said. 'I think you're going to see a lot more
coming from us in the next six months in this area,' he
For example, the Army requires a minimum EPEAT rating of Bronze
' products can achieve a Gold, Silver or Bronze rating
' for all desktop and laptop PCs and monitors offered on the
Army Desktop and Mobile Computing 2 (ADMC-2) and Information
Technology Enterprise Solutions 2 Hardware (ITES-2) contracts.
To truly quantify the benefits of EPEAT, the Army needs to
establish a standardized set of metrics to measure performance
levels, said an Army official connected with the Army Computer
Hardware Enterprise Software and Solutions program.
Most users focus on energy efficiency as a measure of green
computing while others measure reduction and elimination of
hazardous substances, material recycling or product longevity as
performance measures, the Army official said.
'Unless a standardized set of metrics is defined,
individual efforts become meaningless because of the various units
of measures which could be conceived,' the official said.
The official said others hope that EPA will establish a standard
set of metrics so federal users can measure performance. EPEAT does
provide a tool for calculating the environmental benefits of
procuring EPEAT registered products, said Holly Elwood,
headquarters lead for EPA's EPEAT program.
'There is a tool we developed called the Electronics
Environmental Benefits Calculator, or the EEBC, and that tool is
available through the EPEAT and Electronics Federal Challenge Web
sites (www.epeat.net and www.federalelectronicschallenge.
net),' Elwood said.
'Agencies can plug in the number of EPEAT-registered
products they have procured and what level of EPEAT registration
they are at,' she said. 'The tool will automatically
calculate for them the environmental benefits they will achieve as
a result of that procurement.'
Only desktop PCs and monitors are included in the EPEAT
registry, but efforts are under way to broaden the registry.
DOE gets thin
DOE's thin-client computing initiative is proceeding at
several levels. The effort was launched by the National Nuclear
Security Administration as a cybersecurity program to protect vital
information. 'But as a consequence, as we sat down and looked
at it with them, [we saw that] the energy payoff in this area is
just phenomenal,' Eagan said.
Because the bulk of data processing occurs on servers in a data
center and users basically have a diskless computer at their
desktop, thin-client computers are considered less vulnerable to
malware attacks and attempts to steal data. They also are less
expensive than standard PCs, have a longer life cycle and consume
DOE's Office of the CIO's analysis of thinclient
energy savings demonstrated a 55 percent energy savings by a
thin-client system versus a standard PC system, after factoring in
increased server use. The comparative study shows that 48 PCs
required 6,096 watts of power while 48 thin client units ' a
nominal number of users per server ' required only 2,736
watts, including server use. That's a savings of 3,360 watts
or an average of 70 watts per unit, Eagan said.
Another benefit is that thin clients typically last twice as
along as standard PCs, he added.
Data center tools
Last month, DOE's Industrial Technologies Program released
the Data Center Energy Profiler, or DC Pro Version 1.0, an online
software tool designed to help federal agencies and industries
worldwide diagnose how energy is being used by their data centers
and identify opportunities to save energy and money.
Development of DC Pro is one of the activities of DOE's
Save Energy Now initiative, a national drive to reduce industrial
energy use by 25 percent by 2017. DOE released a beta version in
the summer and included feedback from industry vendors such as
Emerson Network Power, IBM and Lockheed Martin before officially
releasing the software.
DC Pro addresses increasing energy consumption among U.S. data
centers as the demand for their services also increases. Trends
suggest that data center energy use will continue to grow by 12
percent a year.
To help curb data center energy use, Save Energy Now is working
with businesses and industry to reduce data center energy use by 10
percent by 2011.
If data center managers are willing to take the time to enter
and collect data, which takes from five to 12 hours, the results
will give them a good idea of their data center infrastructure
efficiency (DCIE) and how they could save energy, said Paul
Scheihing, technology manager at DOE's Industrial
'We're working on other parts of DC Pro that will
allow users to drill a bit deeper,' he said. DOE has released
an electrical system tool that evaluates opportunities around the
electrical distribution system ' power supplies and
transformers ' in a data center.
DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, contractors
and public utilities are also working on other assessment tools in
air management and cooling that could be released in mid-2009.
The assessment and management of power consumption of equipment
other than IT in the data center is important, especially because
about 70 percent of power is used by HVAC systems, experts say.
'IT managers, in order to try to manage energy consumption
now, not only have to take a look at how much power is being
consumed by their servers, they also have to take a look at where
is it going from a cooling perspective,' said Vic Chandra,
program director at IBM Software Group's Green Market
Managers need trending information about energy consumption of
non-IT and IT equipment in the data center, he said. IBM Tivoli
Monitoring for Energy Management software can give them this
visibility by collecting data from IT equipment and power
management systems such as American Power Conversion and Eaton, he
Unisys also offers software that lets data center managers and
operations personnel repurpose servers and associated network and
storage connectivity without repeatedly reworking or manually
reconfiguring the data center infrastructure.
The company's uAdapt software, part of its Infrastructure
Management Suite, supports a range of servers, operating systems,
virtualization solutions and data center infrastructure components,
said Brian Ott, chief technology officer at the company's
system and technology unit. The automated provisioning of servers
and technologies such as virtualization are green IT issues, Ott
said. The typical server uses 7 percent to 20 percent of its
processing power. Repurposing enables IT managers to run more
workloads on fewer servers.
Likewise, virtualization, the ability to run multiple instances
of operating systems concurrently on a single hardware system,
means fewer physical servers consuming power, he said.
The world is moving toward the concept of dynamic IT in which
systems are used when and where they are needed. If you don't
need them, turn them off, said Susie Adams, Microsoft's chief
technical adviser for civilian agencies.
For example, Windows Vista 2008 comes with default power
management settings. Microsoft's Hyper-V server
virtualization technology used in conjunction with the
company's Systems Center management software can make green
IT easier and more dynamic, Adams said. Hyper-V and System Center
can divide processing power among a multicore system, adjusting to
the needs of the workload.
The network takes control
Power efficiency also is being incorporated into network routers
and switches. The network is excercizing more control over devices
connected to it, said Mark Leary, senior strategist for networking
systems at Cisco.
For example, Cisco's 6500/6000 series routers have a power
management feature that can grant or deny power to a component
based on need.
If a branch office's hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to
5 p.m., it makes sense to turn off or reduce the power for those
switches when demand is low, Leary added. Ixia, Juniper Networks
and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs have formed the Energy
Consumption Rating (ECR) initiative, a framework for measuring the
energy efficiency of network and telecom devices.
ECR was put into action last month during a live demonstration
at Ixia's iSimCity facility in Santa Clara, Calif. The
demonstration tested a platform that included Ixia's IxGreen
IP performance testing system, Juniper's T1600 core router
and Emerson Network Power's NetSure 701 DC power system.
The Juniper T1600 router demonstrated an energy-efficiency
rating of 9.1 watts per gigabyte per second in the core router test
using traffic generated by Ixia test equipment.
The effect of outsourcing on energyefficient computing is
another important aspect for IT managers to consider. Because some
agencies are outsourcing the management of their data
center's service providers, data center managers might not
think they have to worry about energyefficient computing because
they are not paying for the power consumption, said Kevin Keathley,
green IT lead at system integrator Accenture.
'They're still generating power consumption even if
they're not generating carbon emissions,' he said.
'They're just moving the problem from their facility to
another one.' Keathley said he is working with a client that
is opening a new data center, and the lease is based on power, not