DOE's new data center energy-efficiency tool on cusp of release

The beta of the Department of Energy's DC Pro tool is due out in May. It will help users determine data center energy efficiency and provide recommendations on improvement.

The  U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been at work developing DC Pro, a tool that enables data center managers to determine levels of data center energy efficiency and provides recommendations for improvement.

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Working with other governmental groups and data center companies, the DOE expects a beta version of the tool in May, with the first generally available version out in September. DC Pro combines the work of DOE's Save Energy Now program, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and data center companies such as EYP Mission Critical Facilities, Ancis Inc., Rumsey Engineers and Taylor Engineering.

The goal is to give you a hit list, a specific hit list for saving energy.
Paul Scheihing,
technology managerDepartment of Energy, Industrial Technologies Program

The DC Pro software tool allows users to enter 12 months' worth of utility bills and answer specific questions about data centers in areas such as electric distribution, airflow management and data center cooling. The result is an estimate of the company's data center infrastructure efficiency (DCIE), a comparison of how much power the data center uses to the IT equipment in use. DC Pro will also provide suggested next steps for improving that efficiency number. Suggestions for improving the electrical distribution system, for example, could include shutting down uninterruptible power supply (UPS) modules when redundancy is high enough, reducing the number of transformers on either side of the UPS, using 480-volt instead of 208-volt static switches, and eliminating redundant power supplies.

"It gives you a total amount of possible savings," said Paul Scheihing, the technology manager for DOE's Industrial Technologies Program. "The goal is to give you a hit list, a specific hit list for saving energy."

Scheihing added that "once you're done with the assessment tools, you can call in a consultant and really dive into the engineering with the expert."

DC Pro was inspired by a report to Congress by the Energy Star program at the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA . The report outlined data center energy use in the United States and suggestions for improvement. One suggestion of the report was to make measuring energy use and energy efficiency easier.

DOE had worked with the IT sector for about a year under its Save Energy Now program and turned to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the oldest of DOE's national laboratories, for help in designing the tool. LBNL has a team focused on high-performance buildings for high-tech industries and has been at the forefront of data center issues such as air management and using direct current, or DC, rather than alternating current, or AC, power for the facility.

LBNL then hired specialized consultants to develop different modules of the DC Pro tool. EYP Mission Critical Facilities, for example, has designed the electrical distribution systems module. "Because data centers are so unique in the way they operate, it's become evident to (DOE) that they need a special program for data center operators to go through to save energy," said Bruce Myatt, a principal at EYP.

Another LBNL consultant, Ancis, is developing the DC Pro module on airflow management. Magnus Herrlin, a principal at Ancis, said the air management module alone will have about 35 possible recommendations for saving energy in the data center.

"It's pretty comprehensive," Herrlin said. "A lot of people think that air management cannot save that much energy, but we have estimated that going from a traditional environment to another environment with good air management can save up to 20% of the chiller power and up to 70% on the fan power. So the savings in total are not insignificant."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Server Specs blog.

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