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Revised server energy efficiency standard due by year's end

A revised version of an EPA server efficiency standard is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Meanwhile, participants talk about measuring storage equipment next.

Data center industry leaders, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hope to have a revised version of the server energy efficiency standard ready by the end of the year.

More on the server efficiency standard:
Data center energy efficiency group releases draft standard on servers

Vendors tussle over measuring server efficiency

Data center efficiency bill passes the House

The group released a draft protocol last month and opened up the discussion for comments. Andrew Fanara, leader of the EPA Energy Star product development team, said the group will be accepting comments into late October.

At that time, the EPA will perform some real-world testing, make whatever changes it deems necessary and have something ready soon after. "We definitely want to do it by year's end," Fanara said. "We're talking November, December, hopefully."

The energy standard would be industrywide and would measure a server's performance under different workloads, compared to how much power the server draws on those jobs.

If it is approved, data center managers could use the standard as one factor in determining what systems they want to buy -- a helpful tool for facilities facing power issues.

Gary Perkins, senior facilities manager for Lockheed Martin Corp. at the Pentagon, located in Virginia, said the miniaturization of server footprints -- that is, creating more server power in smaller spaces -- is a big reason why he is always concerned about power capacity.

"We're limited on how much equipment can be placed in the data center," he said. "The equipment is all shrinking."

The draft protocol

The 10-page server energy efficiency draft protocol spells out test conditions, what machines the standard would be for and how to measure the results. According to the draft, the "curve of server power vs. performance/load" is the key output from the metrics process, which allows the user to calculate average power use at a given load level -- as well as peak power use.

Other details:

  • The standard will be focused on 1U and 2U rack servers and does not address medium enterprise or blade servers.
  • The environmental conditions under which the tests are performed should be guided by data center standards set up by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers [ASHRAE].
  • The result will be calculated using a power curve that measures energy output at three different load levels: full, 90% and idling.

    The working group that created the draft includes representatives from major chipmakers and server vendors, as well as members of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Stanford University and the Uptime Institute Inc.

    Meanwhile, there is already talk about what in the data center will be next to adopt an energy efficiency standard, with many saying that storage equipment could be the likely candidate. Fanara said he met with IBM officials in the past few weeks and they said that storage equipment would likely be the next focus for data center managers looking to save energy.

    Still, other vendors said that users aren't chomping at the bit as much about storage equipment as they are servers.

    "It is an issue, but it's not driving the same type of behavior as server energy efficiency," said Dave Kenyon, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s director of product management, data protection and archiving, in an interview this summer. "Personal experience from customers is that it's not a huge driver. They're not pushing us to make more efficient storage equipment. Customers have hundreds of servers in their data center, but they might only have one or two or three tape libraries."

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

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