EPA finishes draft report on data center power consumption

The federal environmental agency has completed its report on data center power consumption, and is looking for public comments before it issues its final report to Congress by the end of June.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft of its report to Congress on data center power consumption.

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The 156-page report will available on the EPA's server and data center energy efficiency site. The federal environmental agency is looking for industry stakeholders – vendors, analysts, users – to comment on the report by May 7. The EPA will then integrate comments into a final version that it expects to send to Congress by the end of June.

"Hopefully people will look over it and give some general feedback on whether we characterized the issues correctly, to see if we didn't amplify something enough or maybe amplified something too much," said Andrew Fanara, leader of the EPA Energy Star product development team.

The report came about as a result of a data center power consumption bill signed into law in December asking the EPA to undergo a six-month study on data center power consumption. The bill laid out nine areas where the EPA-led study needed to focus, including the proliferation of servers in federal government, how much energy they consume, the potential cost-savings of making servers more efficient, and how to encourage manufacturers to build energy-efficient equipment.

As of now, the report does not include an executive summary, something that Fanara thinks will be a focal point of the final version.

"The executive summary will tease out the important lessons that we have to remember," he said. "For example, that reliability does not have to be sacrificed for efficiency."

Other data center power initiatives underway

The EPA's report is just one example of the flurry of data center energy efficiency initiatives launched by government agencies, nonprofit groups and vendors in the last year.

The Green Grid, a consortium of IT vendors that formed last year with the goal of reducing data center power consumption, has devised a way to measure the energy efficiency of an entire data center, which it spelled out in a recent report. The metric basically compares the amount of power going into a data center facility with how much of that power gets to the IT equipment.

Meanwhile, a bunch of groups are looking at how to benchmark energy efficiency in servers. Last fall, a group of IT vendors supported by the EPA finalized a server energy efficiency protocol for 1U and 2U rack servers. The metric relies on a power meter to measure frequency, voltage, power factor and total harmonic distortion compared to CPU utilization. What comes out the other end is a curve with power output on the y-axis and workload on the x-axis. Measurements for workload are in 10% increments from 0% to 100%, allowing data center managers to gauge their power output depending on how busy they expect a server to be.

Also, a committee within the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation, a nonprofit server benchmarking company, is working on developing a server energy efficiency metric of its own, which is due out in the second half of this year.

Finally, the EPA is considering starting an Energy Star program for servers. Energy Star is a federal program that provides energy efficiency ratings for appliances, such as washing machines, ceiling fans and desktop computers. It's possible that the EPA could derive its metric from the other server energy efficiency metrics.

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

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