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Energy Star for Servers finally means something

No longer limited to one- and two-socket boxes, the Energy Star for Servers label now applies to real enterprise-class hardware.

Server buyers who thought it was safe to ignore the Energy Star label should think again. The U.S. regulating agency is expanding the relevance of the Energy Star brand with muscular new specifications for energy-efficient servers, storage systems and UPSes.

The new Energy Star for Servers 2.0 specification expands its reach outside of rinky-dink one- and two-processor servers, and moves up to four-processor rackmount and blade servers found in enterprise data centers.

At the same time, Energy Star will begin working with the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation to develop a performance measurement tool known as SERT that will be used to gather active power usage data for servers, not just the less meaningful power metric.

When all is said and done, the organization hopes to designate the top 25% of qualifying server models with the Energy Star label, said RJ Meyers, data center product lead at Energy Star, which is a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Today, the list of servers labeled under Energy Star for Servers 1.1 is under 10% of the market, he said, far short of expectations.

By applying to bigger, more mainstream boxes, Energy Star for Servers begins to matter, especially to government purchasing managers, Meyers said. In the private sector, the incentive for server manufacturers to label their wares with Energy Star is largely marketing – “it draws the eyes of consumers and purchasing managers,” he said. But in government agencies, “there is a law that agencies must purchase Energy Star labeled products if they are available,” he added.

Energy Star for Servers 2.0 will be finalized midway through the year, and will be available by the beginning of 2013.

Storage, UPS specs in view
The group is also venturing into other data center components: data center storage arrays and UPSes.

On the storage front, the group will work to label select storage arrays comprised of traditional hard disk drives and solid-state drives. Version 1.0 of the spec, which is slated to be effective by mid-2012, will measure idle power requirements and power supply efficiency, while version 2.0 of the spec will look to gather active power metrics.

“One spec at a time, we are moving toward active power,” Meyers said.

The Energy Star for UPS 1.0 spec, meanwhile, extends to all UPS models, from consumer-rated systems all the way through multi-megawatt data centers, and will be effective this quarter. It covers both novel and traditional UPS designs, including direct current models, modular UPSes and diesel rotary UPSes, or DRUPS. The initial specification measures power efficiency and subsequent versions will measure efficiency levels at different load points, for a greater level of detail.   

Looking out, Meyers said he anticipates at least two other Energy Star specifications for data centers: for data center cooling products, and for large-scale networking equipment. But the timeframe for those specs is unclear. “For data center products, we recognize that these things are much more complicated than in the commercial realms.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, Executive Editor at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.


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