Data Center Energy Star Effort Struggles

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While the Energy Star for Servers initiative moves closer to implementation, efforts to develop a similar facility-level efficiency rating for data centers is being threatened by a lack of data. 

More than half of the data centers that agreed to submit energy usage data to the  Environmental Protection Agency have not shared any data, according to Andrew Fanara, the agency’s liaison to the data center industry. The EPA’s National Data Center Energy Efficiency Program wants to use the data to develop a model for a facility-level efficiency standard. Data center operators’ reluctance to share data with the government imperils that effort.

“Unless people participate, we can’t deliver this,” Fanara said yesterday at a DataCenterDynamics event in New York. “We need your help.”

Developing a facility-level rating would allow companies to track the energy efficiency of multiple data centers, and offer a basis for comparing the efficiency of different data centers.    

In 2007 the EPA began looking for more than 125 organizations with data centers of at least 1,000 square feet to voluntarily provide energy usage data that will help develop the Energy Star Data Center Infrastructure Rating. Participants must collect 12 consecutive months of energy use data for its IT equipment and building (whole building if a stand-alone facility, or data center portion only if within a larger building).

The program was initially scheduled to start last June 1, but was delayed when just 50 data centers agreed to take part. After additional appeals for participation, 242 data centers agreed to submit data and the program launched a month late. Companies agreeing to submit data included Microsoft, AT&T, AOL, 365 Main, Rackspace, Fidelity Investments, Lowe’s, New York Life and Boeing.    

But eight months into the program, just 110 data centers have shared their energy data, and only about 85 of those have submitted complete data.

The low participation suggests that data center operators may be nervous about letting the government know more about their facilities’ energy use, despite assurances that information shared with the EPA will be masked and untraceable. Many major players in the IT industry would prefer that the data center industry effectively police itself, using best practices and standards to document their progress on energy efficiency.

Fanara encouraged any data center operators with concerns to contact him directly to discuss them. The EPA is still accepting data centers for late participation, but they must have data beginning in July 2008.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. It could be a reluctance to share, but it could also be reflection of the lack of good information available to the data center. A lot of data centers I talk to have very little visibility into their power consumption. For many the information buried in the facilities organization and they are lucky if they get a monthly figure for energy consumption with little or no detailed breakdown of where the energy is going.