If you’ve shopped for appliances over the past few years, you’ve probably looked at the ENERGY STAR® ratings as a way to save money on energy, and protect the environment. And it’s not just for appliances – you can find ENERGY STAR® for just about anything that plugs into a wall – light bulbs, computers, monitors, mailing machines, even water coolers and “decorative lighting strings” (items formerly known as “Christmas tree lights”).
But at this point, you still can’t find ratings for the piece of gear that so many of us are concerned about – data center servers.
But here’s some good news – after lengthy debate, the US EPA recently took a big step forward with release of new draft specs. At Emerson Network Power, we fully support the current proposal. Hats off to Andrew Fanara of the EPA, who has worked closely with industry leaders and provided strong leadership on this issue.
One thing that’s particularly good about the draft is the focus on reporting “idle” performance of servers. Server utilization has gone way down, according to a Dell Labs report from late last year. Despite the drive for virtualization, server utilization is at five or six percent – far below the 10 to 15 percent we’ve typically seen.
If servers are idle for as much as 95 percent of the time, we either need to turn them off or – at the very least – ensure that their power draw at idle is as low as possible. And since most IT professionals are deathly afraid of the On/Off switch despite independent tests verifying no decrease in service life then the EPA’s focus on driving idle power to lower levels is a great step forward.
But that’s only one part of the EPA’s draft plan, which also includes adoption of low-power servers and efficient power supplies. At Emerson Network Power, we take a holistic approach to improving data center efficiency, as outlined in our Energy Logic white paper. We’re delighted that the EPA draft includes a number of our Energy Logic strategies.
Measuring data center efficiency also requires a holistic approach. Our Energy Logic white paper outlines a proxy metric, CUPS (Compute Units Per Second) that provides a “work per Watt” tool for measuring efficiency. Particularly when you consider “idle” performance, “work per Watt” is a critical issue.
Once the final rules are in place – and let‘s hope that’s soon – speed to market will be a critical issue. At Emerson Network Power, we’re already working on it. For example, we have been shipping OEM server power supplies that meet the draft ENERGY STAR® specification for about the past six months.
We encourage the US EPA to drive forward with this new specification. We look forward to an EPA “yellow tag” that maps server power use from idle to full power. With an ENERGY STAR® specification, we believe the industry will move forward with significant improvements in server efficiency that ultimately yield higher data center productivity.
But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?
Guess what, you’ve got a chance to let your voice be heard. Get registered for the EPA online stakeholder meeting that will be held on Monday, March 16 from 1 – 3 p.m., EDT. Better get on it – there are limited number of lines available, and you’ve got to register in advance no later than Thursday, March 12.
We’re getting close to a big turning point in the push to make data centers more energy efficient. Make sure your voice is heard!