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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Data center metrics and standards guide

Is CEEDA a better energy-efficiency certification than ISO 50001?

Are there reasons that I would select CEEDA certification versus ISO 50001 certification to show that the data center is energy efficient?

CEEDA and ISO 50001 offer organizations multiple avenues to manage and certify energy efficiency in the enterp...

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Start with your organization's motivation: What do you need from an energy-efficiency certification? Is it a marketing differentiator, a point of prestige or credibility to end users, or a de facto requirement to compete with peers? Are there more tangible goals, like reducing energy costs or increasing the amount of data center capacity running on available power, or lowering management cost and bettering systems integration? Government contracts or industry standards compliance may require the certification.

The Certified Energy Efficient Datacenter Award (CEEDA) and International Standards Organization (ISO) 50001 both relate to energy efficiency, but they serve very different purposes. CEEDA assesses and certifies the energy-efficient equipment and practices within a facility, and then provides guidelines for further improvement into the future. ISO 50001 is a more generalized standard that goes beyond the data center and IT with a focus on energy management policies and practices. A business emphasizing data center facility efficiency might opt for CEEDA certification, while another enterprise, like a manufacturer, may go for ISO 50001.

CEEDA and ISO 50001 embrace entirely different evaluation criteria. CEEDA outlines specific technological elements for the data center facility. For example, a CEEDA bronze certification requires variable speed drives in cooling pumps and fans, and you can fail the certification without them. ISO 50001 is concerned with energy policy and management -- not technologies. It's the tools and process that you implement that earns ISO 50001 certification for the business.

Data centers as well as IT organizations using a colocation facility can adopt any number of criteria within CEEDA and implement them according to best practices. Bronze CEEDA certification considers factors like the use of separate environmental zones, variable speed fans, and hot and cold air containment. Silver certification adds factors such as equipment with extended operating temperature and humidity ranges, heat pump assisted waste heat reuse and free cooling. Gold certification builds on both underlying criteria sets with factors such as dynamic air conditioning control, PDU-level IT energy use metering and automated energy and environmental metering.

Expect to spend around 12 weeks on the process, depending on individual factors such as your existing documentation and availability. Share your current data center implementation and operations with an assessor, who will then make a one-day site visit for verification. The assessor will highlight any gaps and outline areas for future improvement, in addition to recommending a certification level. If you certify to CEEDA bronze, silver or gold, expect to make future improvements based on the assessment. A CEEDA certification is valid for two years.

Alternative certifications around energy include LEED or BREEAM and encompass energy efficiency, land use, waste streams, building management and other enterprise efficiency attributes. Uptime Institute also created the Efficient IT Assessment awards to gauge and recognize IT efficiency efforts from the data center design to operational practices. While power usage effectiveness provides a simple metric that business leaders embrace, PUE's shortcomings mean data center managers demand more comprehensive and meaningful energy certifications.

ISO 50001 does not stipulate what constitutes good or bad energy efficiency. It does not apply a number to energy efficiency nor does it require certain technologies for improvements. It does not call for specific data center technologies in the same way that CEEDA's criteria do, but it does set requirements for the equipment, processes and people in the data center. For ISO 50001 certification, an organization must have established policies and processes to reduce the energy they use and improve how efficiently they use it. The organization should work within an energy management system to set energy-efficiency goals and performance targets, craft energy policies and then implement action plans.

Work with an accredited certification agency to verify that necessary ISO 50001 procedures and controls are in place and working effectively. If possible, have the agency perform a gap analysis before the formal assessment. The assessor may suggest corrective actions for any lacking areas. The ISO 50001 certification is valid for three years.

Neither CEEDA nor ISO 50001 establish definitive cost structures because both certifications depend heavily on independent third-party assessment and review. The cost of either certification will depend on your organization's energy efficiency maturity -- whether it involves purchasing and integrating sensors, installing free cooling structures, training on the energy efficiency improvement methodology, or other investments on top of paying for the assessment and gathering documentation. A large enterprise with no energy management system in place -- and little engineering expertise to implement one -- will likely spend far more on ISO 50001 certification than another business that already has comprehensive systems and policies in place. At any level, include the cost of future renewals in your certification plan.

This was last published in July 2015

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