ASHRAE and Energy Star for Green Data Centers
A good example of the potential for energy savings from teamwork between facility management and IT has to do with data center temperatures. Reflecting new server tolerances, new guidelines for data centers from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) raise acceptable temperatures from 68 F to 80 F or more. To assist facility managers and their IT counterparts, ASHRAE has published a series of books on various aspects of data center design and operations.
But facility managers are rarely in a position to raise data center temperatures without getting IT buy-in. And IT managers are often initially uncomfortable with higher temperatures. That's understandable. Their highest priority is keeping the data center up and running and it makes many of them uncomfortable to raise data center temperatures past levels that they've been used to.
That's where education comes in. Facility managers have to explain the rationale behind the change — not only the economics of energy efficiency, but the industrywide work that has gone into establishing the new temperature levels.
The future will bring more initiatives designed to reduce power consumption by IT equipment, which will require IT to remain involved in efforts to cut energy use. Consider Energy Star's Tier I server specification. Peoples says the Energy Star standard for Tier I servers is similar to the miles per gallon sticker on a new car. The purchaser can determine and understand what kind of gas mileage to expect. Similarly, Energy Star "is a simplified method to understand IT equipment's power supply energy efficiency," he says.
Energy Star's Tier II specification, which will cover blade servers, fault-tolerant servers, server appliances and multi-node systems, is in draft form. Fanara hopes a draft specification for storage and network equipment will be ready in the first half of 2010.
Another benefit of Energy Star servers is that they operate efficiently at higher temperatures, according to Reed. "Newer servers can operate at 80 to 95 degrees, which is more like a manufacturing process environment," he says.
That aspect of operating at higher temperatures is particularly important for Tier IV data centers, the kind that Wade says he deals with at Walmart. "By using the ASHRAE recommendations, we can raise space temperatures and save a little bit," he says.
Every little bit adds up. "If all servers operated more efficiently in this country, I read we could save $800 million in energy bills," says Wade. "And we would offset the carbon footprint of one million vehicles. Energy savings needs to be part of our DNA. We need to take care of future generations. They are our future customers."
Rita Tatum, a contributing editor for Building Operating Management, has more than 30 years of experience covering facility design and technology.
Coming Soon: Energy Star Rating for Data Centers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing an Energy Star rating model for data center infrastructure, based on a year's worth of energy use and operating characteristics from more than 120 data centers. Both stand-alone facilities and those located in offices and other types of buildings were used. EPA is currently finalizing the rating model, with an anticipated release date of April 2010.
— Rita Tatum