Green Grid Members Open Energy Efficient R&D Data Center

Oct 26, 2007 (10:10 AM EDT)

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With government agencies looking over their shoulders, CIOs and data center managers understand that adapting to new standards of efficiency has become increasingly critical.

Businesses in the United States have been put on notice by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy that power used by data centers is growing at a disproportionate rate, and multiple sources within the industry have predicted a looming energy crisis that could threaten half or more of operations.

Tackling the issues will require an industry-wide and vendor-specific focus as demonstrated by the latest meeting of The Green Grid consortium this week in St. Louis, Mo., where APC-MGE and parent company Schneider Electric hosted the meeting and opened a 100,000-square-foot technology center that is dedicated to research and development of energy efficient data center equipment and design processes.

The events also had participation from the EPA and Department of Energy, and Andrew Fanara of the EPA's Energy Star program cautioned those attending that significant shifts are under way that will led to the emergence of a carbon economy in which businesses in the United States will be held accountable for energy consumption in their data centers.

"We are already seeing carbon schemes developing and there is no longer a semi-free lunch for data center energy consumption," Fanara said.

Aaron Davis, chief marketing office for APC-MGE, said "the mandate for efficient enterprises will change the high-tech landscape. The antidote to anxiety is action. Power and cooling costs are making the economics of Moore's Law no longer relevant and it is preventing businesses from investing in their IT infrastructure."

Creating a "collective place" where data center research and industry-wide initiatives can be formulated and implemented will be a key to staying abreast of energy issues, Davis said. Efforts like The Green Grid and the opening of the Schneider Electric Technology Center are expected to create the strategies for improved efficiency of data center operation, he said.

The Green Grid, which includes industry participation from more than 100 companies including Advanced Micro Devices, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Intel, released three papers this week from its Technical Committee that are intended to facilitate development of more efficient data center design, and lead within the year to the creation of a "miles per gallon" rating for infrastructure equipment that will attempt to balance both efficiency and performance.

The new papers from The Green Grid include the "Qualitative Analysis of Power Distribution Configurations for Data Centers." The paper identifies seven power distribution configurations and provides advantages and disadvantages for each.

An updated version of a "Data Center Energy Efficiency Metrics" white paper also was released. It details The Green Grid's efforts to obtain metrics on infrastructure equipment from throughout the industry, and plans to use Power Usage Effectiveness and Data Center Efficiency as key metrics for the industry to adopt for tracking and reporting their data center operations in a standardized manner. Initial efforts are focused on energy efficiency, with work ongoing to develop metrics for productivity that will include computational efficiency.

Jim Pappas, a director of The Green Grid representing Intel, said use of more efficient equipment and design practices can enable businesses to improve overall efficiency of their data centers by 10% to 50%.

"When you look at what happened with this industry in transforming the work environment from the desktop to the laptop, you know that, quite frankly, there is a lot of knowledge that should be focused now on the data center, and we realize the time to do it is now," Pappas said.

Laurent Vernerey, president and chief executive of APC-MGE, said the opening of the SETC will enable the company and industry to test design scenarios and new equipment to advance energy efficiency. The facility will house research efforts for APC's InfraStruXure line of data center products, including its InRow cooling cabinets and enclosures, and the InfraStruXure Central management software platform. It will also be made available to others in the industry interested testing new products and strategies.

"We will be able to look at real customer problems and create 'what if' scenarios that wouldn't be possible in a real data center operation," Vernerey said.

"No one is going to allow us to experiment in their data center in real time," said John Pflueger, a director of The Green Grid representing Dell. "What we can do here is identify trends and approaches that will hopefully lead to more efficient data center equipment and processes."

The Schneider Electric Technology Center also is being used to help speed the integration of APC's products with those of Schneider Electric, which acquired APC for $6.1 billion in February, such as the industrial-level monitoring systems that APC is adapting for use with data center equipment.

The facility also includes environmentally controlled chambers that APC and Schneider will use to test data center equipment under extreme but controlled heat and cooling conditions.