Energy Star turns up the heat on data centers

Draft reports calls for energy-efficient steps to counter ballooning power use and keep track of performance

It's a big opportunity for federal data centers to take the lead. ' Andrew Fanara, Energy Star Program

Rick Steele

The Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program is looking to shed light on the rate of power consumption in data centers and push agencies to improve energy efficiency.

A draft report on a recent study explores the potential cost and energy savings related to energy-efficient computing . The draft also examines potential incentives and voluntary programs for promoting energy efficiency.

EPA released the draft study April 23 on the Energy Star Web site (GCN.com/766).

The agency is looking for feedback by May 7 from industry and government on the 'Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency.' The final report on the study is due to Congress in June.

Growing concern

Energy Star sponsored the study in response to legislation enacted by Congress last year.

The consumption of energy is a growing concern in government and industry.
Energy use by the country's servers and data centers has grown significantly from 2000 to 2006, the draft report states.

'The electricity use attributable to the nation's servers and data centers is estimated at about 59 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006, or 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption. This electricity use has more than doubled since 2000 and amounts to about $4.1 billion in electricity costs,' according to the study.

'It is estimated that federal servers and data centers accounted for roughly 5.9 billion kWh (or 10 percent) of this electricity use in 2006 at a total cost of $410 million,' the study states.

Action plan

There are steps agencies can take to reduce energy consumption in data centers that do not require significant investments, only an effective plan, said Andrew Fanara, Energy Star product development team leader.

Some of these steps include adjusting temperature and humidity
settings and using information technology equipment with energy management features.

Several steps toward more efficient processors, servers, storage devices and infrastructure systems are already in motion and potentially could have significant impact on future data center energy consumption, according to EPA's draft report.

Other ways to achieve energy efficiency include the adoption of best practices gleaned from energy-efficient facilities in operation today and implementation of more efficient technologies and management practices.

The report also recommends some incentives and voluntary programs that could help reduce energy consumption in data centers.

However, because the report is only a draft, the recommendations could change after EPA has reviewed comments from industry stakeholders, Fanara said.
The recommendations were drawn from sources including a workshop convened by EPA in February.

Equipment vendors, component manufacturers, trade groups and operators of data centers participated in the workshop.

It included interviews with individual data center operators conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Alliance to Save Energy in March.
One of the report's recommendations calls for development of 'an objective, credible energy performance rating system for data centers, to allow comparison between facilities and tracking of facility performance over time.'
Ultimately, the report will enable federal data center managers to devise better energy savings plans for their facilities, Fanara said.

'It's a big opportunity for federal data centers to take the lead,' he said. 'We're supposed to eat our own cooking.'

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