Article

Data center efficiency bill passes the House

Mark Fontecchio

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that calls for a six-month Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on data center efficiency.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) cosponsored the bill with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). The House yesterday voted 417-4 in favor, which now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration. It must pass there before going to President George W. Bush for approval.

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The issue of power consumption in the data center has taken center stage in many IT departments, as energy costs have skyrocketed and businesses look to expand their data centers or build new ones.

"The EPA, high technology companies and nongovernmental organizations have discussed how to measure energy efficiency of these data centers with an eye toward providing an Energy Star rating for the most efficient technologies," Eshoo said on the House floor. "[Energy Star] has worked with other industries, it really has been a motivator."

The EPA has already considered the idea of rolling data center equipment into the national Energy Star program, which covers appliances, such as ceiling fans, dehumidifiers and desktop computers. It hasn't yet adopted an energy efficiency standard for servers.

Andrew Fanara, leader of the EPA Energy Star product development team, said in an interview today that the bill will likely bring more light to the growing problem of energy-hogging data centers. He said the bill actually came up independent of the work that the EPA is already doing on the subject.

"We really have a good opportunity where customers are expressing a lot of concern about rising energy demand," he said. "The industry is hearing that and is responding, at least in part, talking about their efficient products."

Because energy costs have become such a huge problem for customers' data centers, the industry has started to rally around the cause. In May, a nonprofit organization called The Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC), which measures server performance benchmarks, formed a committee to develop server energy efficiency standards. The committee includes members from all the major vendors -- IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. for example – as well as the EPA and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Energy Analysis Department, which is already in the midst of studies examining power consumption in the data center.

That committee hopes to release a performance efficiency benchmark by early 2007.

A group of manufacturers also came together in April to form The Green Grid, a consortium of companies aiming to lower power consumption in data centers. However, there hasn't been much going on with the group's Web site since it launched almost three months ago.

The House bill, dubbed H.R. 5646, lays out nine different areas where the EPA-led study should focus. They include looking at the proliferation of servers in federal government, analyzing how much energy they consume, potential cost savings by making machines more efficient and recommending how to encourage manufacturers to build energy efficient equipment.

"I personally think they have done the right thing in identifying us to study the issue," Fanara said. "I think there is a lot of work that has already been done and we can build on that."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer


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