Zeroing in on greener enterprise servers

The Environmental Protection Agency and industry partners are moving closer to an Energy Star specification for enterprise servers that will help government agencies identify systems that deliver performance while reducing energy consumption.

Agency information technology managers ultimately will be able to increase the manageability of their servers through better onboard technology if they use systems with the Energy Star rating. Additionally, agency IT equipment buyers can expect systems that adhere to the Energy Star specification to have capabilities that increase power supply efficiency and minimize idle power so energy is not wasted when servers are at low utilization, according to EPA officials.

The Energy Star Version 1.0 Computer Server specification is expected to become effective May 1. Request for comments on Draft 4 of the specification ended March 20.

The EPA asked industry stakeholders to focus on some key issues such as idle power requirements for servers with more than two sockets, the appropriate means to measure blade server efficiency and a standardized data reporting approach that can help data center managers improve their understanding of the power characteristics of their IT equipment.

The Energy Star specification for servers can serve as a useful guidepost for organizations of all sizes, said Andrew Fanara, EPA’s Energy Star product development team lead.

“It doesn’t answer every question about energy efficiency. However, it can open a conversation about the energy profile of products,” he said.

More information on the power use and capability of servers will be posted with product specifications on vendors’ Web sites when the specification is finally approved. The EPA plans to provide a template of the Power and Performance Data Sheet for vendors on the agency’s Web site.

Buyers of IT equipment will be able to compare energy use, thermal characteristics and performance of servers, EPA officials said.

“Overall, we think that there has been good progress on the server requirements and we think EPA has done some good work in getting that specification focused on the issues,” said Jay Dietrich, program manager with IBM’s corporate environmental affairs group.

IBM recognizes the need to reduce server power consumption while at the same time ensuring that the systems continue to deliver service and reliability, he said. However, there is increasing use of technology such as virtualization that drives better efficiency through consolidation of servers. But virtualization has different service and reliability components built into it that drive more power use, Dietrich said.

IBM is working with the EPA to strike a balance between the need to reduce power and the use of technology like virtualization that might use more.

“There aren’t real strong metrics or benchmarks for virtualization that are available to set standards for those types of operations,” Dietrich said.

The EPA is supposed to address this issue in the next version of the specification, he added.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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