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EPA calls for R&D to cut data center power draw

Posted: 07 Aug 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:energy efficiency? power draw? data center? R&D program?

A new report by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) calls for the federal and state governments to work with major industry groups to develop a comprehensive R&D program aimed at making data centers more energy efficient. The report also pushes for new way s to measure energy efficiency both for data centers and systems such as servers.

The EPA report is one byproduct of the government's increasing focus on the problem of rising power consumption in data centers. Data centers and servers in the U.S. consumed about 61 billion kWh in 2006 at a cost of about $4.5 billion. EPA warned that those figures could nearly double by 2011.

If all its proposals are taken up, the EPA estimated the U.S. could save by 2011 approximately 23 to 74 billion kWh of power, representing more than $1.6 billion in energy costs. The savings correspond to reductions in nationwide carbon dioxide emissions of 15 to 47 million metric tons in 2011, the EPA estimated.

Need for R&D program
Among its recommendations, the EPA said government and the industry should bolster R&D on a broad list of computer hardware and software issues. They include developing better ways to consolidate servers through virtualization, better hardware and software for parallel processing with multicore CPUs and increased use of solid-state memory in data-center systems.

The EPA also called for R&D in issues surrounding data center facilities. Specifically, the report suggested developing components and standards for the use of data center power and fuel cells in data centers.

The report, however, did not suggest a price tag for the R&D program or how much of the development costs should be picked up be federal, state and industry programs. It suggested more work was needed to develop a comprehensive list of R&D issues that need to be tackled.

The EPA will propose extending its Energy Star program used for desktop PCs and consumer appliances to computer servers later this year. If the trial goes well, Energy Star metrics for power consumption could be applied to other data center equipment including networking switches and storage arrays.

"We think there is an opportunity to apply the Energy Star program to servers and other data center systems," said Andrew Fanara, a product development team leader for the EPA's Energy Star program in an interview in June. "We will have a straw man proposal out late this year for setting out the assumptions and objectives," he added.

So-called volume servers grew faster than any other data center component in power consumption from 2000-2006, rising from 29 to 34 percent of overall data center power consumption, the EPA reported.

Energy metric
In addition, the report asked the federal government and industry to develop a metric to rate the energy efficiency of data center facilities. The measurement should ultimately take into account the performance rating of the computer and networking systems in the facility, it said. Government should take a leading role in adopting and reporting those metrics for its data centers, the report said.

The EPA asked government and industry leaders to form a joint initiative to drive the recommendations of the study. Some of that work is already happening through an ad hoc alliance called the Green Grid which plans to announce its technical agenda for 2007 including plans for new standards. Computer makers, many of whom participated in the development of the report, generally praised its findings.

"The report is an important step in educating customers, policymakers, and the public on opportunities to conserve energy in data centers," said Paul Perez, a VP in Hewlett-Packard's server group. "HP is reviewing the EPA's recommendations on standards, research and development, and partnerships, to determine possible adoption of policies that encourage the public and private sectors to use available technologies to reduce data center energy consumption."

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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