Green Grid Tackles Productivity

The Green Grid convenes its second Technical Forum today and will announce plans to develop a new metric for data center productivity and a "Data Center 2.0" design guide.

Rich Miller

February 4, 2009

3 Min Read
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The Green Grid is stepping up its ambitions as the group convenes its second Technical Forum today in San Jose, Calif. The industry consortium will announce plans to develop a new metric for data center productivity and a "Data Center 2.0" design guide. The group will also use today's event to outline additional guidance for measuring Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), the energy efficiency metric developed by the Green Grid that has gained momentum as a benchmark for facility energy usage.

"You're starting to see The Green Grid take on a fairly substantial chunk of work," said John Pflueger, a technology strategist at Dell and one of the group's directors. "A good way to describe 2008 is that were promoting the awareness of metrics. This year the organization is maturing. It's time to to pump it up with both promotion and training for the metrics."

The creation of a measure for data center productivity - also broadly known as "useful work" - is generating interest from both vendors and data center operators. Productivity is seen as a more complete measure of data center efficiency than PUE, which measures the power overhead between the utility feed and IT equipment, but doesn't capture efficiency gains inside the data center in servers and storage.   

A prior effort at a productivity metric, known as DCeP metric, "can sometimes be difficult to implement," the Green Grid acknowledged. It's difficult to find agreement on a definition. That's reflected in the process that begins today, in which Green Grid members will sort through at least eight different proposals (PDF)  for useful work.

The new goal is to develop a simple indicator, or proxy, rather than a full metric. The Green Grid compares the proxy to EPA mileage ratings for new cars, which provide useful data on energy efficiency, with the caveat that "your mileage may vary." The proposals "do not explicitly address all data center devices and thus fall short of a complete overall measure of data center productivity," the group says.

Among the candidates are proposals that examine compute units per second, weighted CPU utilization, bits per kilowatt hour and operating system workload efficiency. It's also an area where some of the Green Grid's larger members have competing criteria and visions. Pflueger said he expects "a little bit of grief about picking winners.

"We have some very interesting approaches," he added, noting the challenge of collecting information on production systems running in real time. "The last thing we can do is create any challenges to reliability."

The goal is to narrow the field to several candidates for further development.  "Hopefully by the end of the session will have one or two to move forward with," said Roger Tipley, an engineering strategist at HP and a Green Grid director.

"We're not saying we have an answer," said Pflueger. "We're saying we think the solutions lie within these two or three sets of answers. What we want is a discussion within the community about what's going to work."

The work on the Data Center 2.0 design guide will commence today, with a first take due next year. "The design guide recognizes how far we've come as a group, and provides a vision for the future," said Tipley.

"The data center is comprised of highly complex systems, and while multiple technical designs and best practice documents exist within the industry, there is not a single authoritative source taking a holistic approach to data center designs and moving the data center as a whole forward," said Jim Pappas, a director of The Green Grid and director of initiative marketing in Intel's Server Platforms Group. "With the Data Center 2.0 initiative, The Green Grid will spearhead the effort to create an industry accepted design guide to optimize data center efficiency."

The initiative will seek areas of broad agreement, rather than seeking to settle industry debates about technology choices (i.e. raised floor vs. slab, AC vs DC, flywheels vs. UPS, etc.).

"There are a lot of things we can agree on that will be in the document," said Pflueger. "Just making sure everything can talk to everything else is a huge win."

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