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Brill: Govt. Report on Data Center Efficiency ‘Misses The Root Cause’

computer_chip.jpgThe U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA recently released “Energy Efficiency in Data Centers: Recommendations for Government-Industry Coordination” (PDF), which details the discussions and recommendations covered during a national strategy workshop in July (see items from report below).

But Kenneth Brill, executive director of the Uptime Institute, writes in Forbes that “working to make facility components marginally more efficient, when the driver of data center power consumption is the increasing numbers of servers and storage, misses the root cause of data center energy consumption growth.”

Brill says we already know a lot about energy efficiency in data centers but “users aren’t paying much attention.” Instead of working to advance energy efficiency in data centers, Brill says the government should work on understanding why users, i.e. CFOs and CIOs, are not demanding increased energy efficiency. He recommends the government to conduct research into why users are either ignorant or ignoring the opportunity for financial savings through making data centers more energy efficient.

Brill recently offered five tips on how to cut energy bills while increasing cooling reliability and stability.

In August, Brill wrote in Forbes that low Power Utilization Effectiveness numbers are “scientifically meaningless.”

Background on U.S. data center energy consumption here.

Items from EPA Report

Recommended Areas of Coordination between Government and Industry:

1. Coordinate activities – Put in place a process to coordinate energy efficiency activities of government and industry groups; possibly form an organization for this purpose.
2. Standardize metrics and definitions – Standardize and harmonize metrics for IT equipment, infrastructure, and facilities; develop definitions for useful work output from IT equipment and data centers as a whole.
3. Improve access to information – Develop and consolidate information about technical and organizational (or “management”) best practices for energy efficiency in data centers; information should include analytical tools for technology, as well as financial and risk assessments; information should also include simple checklists, such as basic items to consider for new IT projects; use pilot projects and test centers to develop real data on costs and benefits.
4. Promote training and education – Perform outreach to raise awareness about metrics and best practices, with a special focus on senior executives.
5. Provide incentives for implementing best practices – Promote internal reward systems (e.g., employee recognition programs) as well as external rewards (e.g., financial incentives or recognition programs) for organizations that implement best practices.
6. Better understand decision-making for data centers – Conduct market research to better understand why data center managers are not adopting efficiency, what barriers they face, and what they need to overcome those barriers.

U.S. DOE and U.S. EPA Next Steps:

1. Develop an online information portal – Create a Web site that provides easy access to energy efficiency resources and information, such as industry best practices, metrics development, industry initiatives, education and training opportunities, technology demonstrations, and incentives.
2. Release DC Pro Tool Software – This software will help companies define baseline energy use of data centers and identify potential energy savings and to reduce environmental emissions. This tool provides quantification of key metrics including cost, primary energy (Btu), and carbon. DOE is in the final stages of the beta test period and will release the DC Pro Tool Version 1 software in September 2008, which includes a high level energy profiling tool as well as the electrical distribution system assessment tool. Other assessment modules will be available in future versions. One of objectives of the tool is to assist datacenter operators with performing self-assessments of their operations.
3. Joint training – Develop training through industry groups such as ASHRAE and others and deliver through multiple sponsors to data center operators. DOE will facilitate the delivery of training workshops with a variety of cost-sharing sponsors similar to the training delivery model used by Save Energy Now.
4. Technical assistance – DOE is developing a program to train and certify Qualified Specialists to assist data center operators in identifying and implementing energy saving projects. Qualified Specialists would be expected to have the skills necessary to perform energy assessments in datacenter operations. DOE will include industry input in the development and formation of the certification program.
5. Investigate the feasibility of developing a Federal pilot project – Investigate the feasibility of developing a pilot site at a federal agency through collaboration with FEMP. The pilot site conducts energy-efficiency assessments, implements cost-effective improvements, and shares results and lessons.
6. Complete the ENERGY STAR specification for computer servers V1.0. – This is the EPA’s first specification for IT equipment typically found in the data center. EPA plans
to finalize the specification by January 1, 2009, and the new specification would be effective immediately.
7. Initiate a workgroup to start researching a Tier 2 server specification – The Tier 2 specification for servers would broaden the scope of the specification to larger server types and more holistically address the performance and energy use of servers using applicable server benchmarks.
8. Continue research into specifications for other IT equipment – The EPA has already begun discussions with storage equipment industry representatives and has also started thinking about specifications for networking equipment. The EPA plans to continue research in these areas starting in 2009.
9. Finish data collection effort on data center energy use – Data collection on data centers will start on August 15, 2008. The EPA has over 125 companies that have pledged to collect regular data on over 240 Data Centers throughout the US and abroad. The EPA plans quarterly updates to inform stakeholders on the progress of the data collection effort.
10. Pursue completion of research into a benchmark rating system for data centers – Using the data collected, EPA plans to pursue a data center rating system that could be used for an ENERGY STAR buildings program for data centers. The target launch date for the rating system is January 2010.
11. Engage in dialogue with telecommunication companies – Telecom companies have expressed to EPA an interest in creating a rating system for telecom facilities. EPA will consider this opportunity and engage the industry in further discussions, as appropriate, as time and resources permit..
12. Explore research and development opportunities in data center and telecommunications applications – The DOE will conduct a workshop in fall 2008 to identify collaborative industry-government RD&D which ultimately will increase the energy efficiency of telecommunications systems and data centers.

Recommended Industry Actions:

1. Coordinate activities – Work with government to coordinate energy efficiency activities.
2. Standardize metrics and definitions – Participate with government in a metrics harmonization process.
3. Improve access to information – Work with government to develop consolidated information on best practices; develop tools to assess technology, financial, and risk benefits of energy efficiency in data centers; document and publish results of pilot/demonstration projects.
4. Promote training and education – Develop education program targeted at senior executives to raise awareness about benefits of energy-management best practices; work with DOE to develop the Qualified Specialist certification program.
5. Provide incentives for implementing best practices – Implement reward and recognition programs for improved energy management within their organizations; document and publish successful programs so that they may be replicated in client organizations.
6. Better understand decision-making for data centers – Study current data center management practices and how the market for energy efficiency in data centers functions; document and publish findings to guide next steps in this area.

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