Facilities, IT Departments Have to Work Together to Save Energy in Data Centers

By Maryellen Lo Bosco  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Facility Managers Can Use Energy Star Program to Drive Data Center EfficiencyPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Co-location Facilities Can Tout Energy Efficiency Efforts as Cost Savers

Another problem is that the IT department, which runs the data center and is responsible for the majority of energy use in the data center, may not pay the electric bill. "Energy management falls within the group that pays the utility bill," Zatz says. "But a different group runs the data center. So these two groups have different concerns and different missions. In companies where the two groups communicate or work together, there is great success, but in most places those roles are split, and not just in data centers."

Education is a very important factor in making people understand they can improve energy efficiency without compromising the integrity of the data center, Zatz says. For example, in a situation where there are building tenants, those who own the data center may be concerned about confidentiality and thus will not let facility managers into the space. Tenants need to understand what is at stake, and they also need to trust the facility manager.

Energy Star helps people understand how much energy the data center is using and how it is performing relative to other data centers. "You need to know what's good or bad; that's what the tool is about," Zatz says. Users confidentially enter their data into Portfolio Manager and can then see what they are doing and whether there is room for improvement. "Many people don't know what they're paying," Zatz says. "Benchmarking is where we make the biggest impact in providing a comparative metric."

Once the benchmarking process has started, the data center updates Portfolio Manager monthly, as energy use is tracked over time. "That allows you to see the impact of your efforts," Zatz says. "If you start with the smaller things and show measured results from smaller projects, it is easier to convince management to embark on larger projects."

Energy Star's guidelines for energy management are reflected into a seven-step process that includes making a commitment, setting goals, developing an action plan, and so forth. In addition, Energy Star points people to other organizations and resources, such as the Green Grid, Uptime Institute and 7x24 Exchange.

ASHRAE also plays an important role in energy efficiency, since their guidelines for temperatures in data centers provide an authoritative source for allowing more variation in temperatures without compromising assets. ASHRAE's newest "Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments," updated in 2008, recommend a wider temperature band for the data center — from 64.4 F to 80.6 F. In addition, ASHRAE instituted four classes of servers, with allowable ranges that go well beyond recommended guidelines on both the high and low temperature ranges.

Many people are using the ASHRAE standards, Zatz says, and some companies are very publicly doing their own testing and pushing the envelope with temperatures. "That's the type of thing people should be trying," Zatz says. "ASHRAE allows them to keep the energy center warmer, and that increases their Energy Star score."

Energy Star Offers Data Center Guidance

Energy Star has developed specifications for energy-consuming products used in the data center. "The program for data centers works more broadly with the total energy use of the building," says Mike Zatz, chief, market sectors group, for the Energy Star Commercial and Industrial branch at EPA.

  • Servers. Version 1 of the Energy Star server spec was released in 2009, and the first draft of version 2 was released in 2010. The final version of the new specification is due to be released late this summer, according to EPA.
  • Storage devices. Version 1 of the specification is currently in development. Creating the specification is a complicated matter, since different storage devices achieve different levels of energy efficiency under different operating conditions. "For example," says a letter from Energy Star to storage manufacturers, "some drives will perform much better on Transaction-oriented workloads that involve a large number of I/O operations per second with low seek times, while others will excel at Capacity-oriented workloads where the ability to stream large, continuous chunks of data is most important." The current timeline for the spec calls for it to be published this fall, according to EPA.
  • UPS. In May, EPA and the Department of Energy released version 1 of the Energy Star specification for UPS units. The new specification will take effect Aug. 1.

— Maryellen Lo Bosco

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  posted on 6/6/2012   Article Use Policy

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