The U.S. government hasn't taken steps to regulate data centers. But it has had a seat at the table as the industry has worked to improve its energy efficiency through the development of improved metrics and best practices. That seat has usually been filled by Andrew Fanara, who works in the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program.
Fanara will soon be departing for a position at OSISoft, where he will work on a new sustainability initiative. Last week we caught up with Andrew and talked about his transition and the progress of the various Energy Star projects relevant to the data center industry.
"I had begun to wonder whether they would be a career for me beyond EPA," Fanara said. "It’s been a great place to work and it’s a terrific mission I really believe in. I think we have gotten a heckuva lot done in the last three or four years, and it’s starting to coalesce."
Energy Star for Enterprise Servers: This program, launched in May 2009 after several years of industry consensus-building, offers buyers an “apples to apples” method for comparing the energy efficiency of servers from major vendors. The EPA says that on average, servers that earn the Energy Star label will be 30 percent more energy efficient than standard servers.
The program is now approaching its Tier II implementation, which will evaluate servers using a rating tool from SPEC (Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation). Once the new standard is accepted, there will be a nine-month transition to its implementation. The updated standard will also include a broader range of servers, including blade servers, which were left out of the original standard.
"We had to figure out a different way to measure so they could be compared to non-blades," said Fanara. "My hope is that we end up with servers that do more with less."
After a slow start, the number of vendors participating in the program has grown, with Dell, IBM and NEC joining HP, Fujitsu and Lenovo on the list of vendors with certified equipment. "It’s starting to pick up," said Fanara. "We’re starting to see some good uptick in the number of companies and the number of configurations. We require a fair amount of information, so administratively (Energy Star submission) can be a lot of work."
Energy Star for Data Centers: The EPA has been working for several years on a building-level rating, which will be based on the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric popularized by The Green Grid. Starting on or about June 1, data center operators can go into the Portfolio Manager tool, which is part of the Energy Star for Buildings program, and enter their information securely. The software returns a benchmark score between zero and 100, With scores above 75 earning Energy Star designation.
Energy Star for Storage and UPS: The Energy Star program will soon expand to include ratings for storage devices and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) equipment, providing data center purchasers with additional insight into efficiency. Fanara said the storage and UPS ratings are likely to be launched in the first half of 2011, probably around the time that the Tier II server standard takes effect.
Fanara said the agency's data center initiatives would be in good hands, and he ex[ects the strong working relationship with the industry to continue.
"All these data centers are the muscle behind all this technology we expect in our day-to-day lives," Fanara said. "This is a special and unique sector and has an exciting future ahead of it."