The Green Grid Unveils Energy Productivity Metric for Data Centers

The Green Grid has finally reached consensus on a metric more than five years in the making: Data Center Energy Productivity, or DCeP, is computed as useful work produced divided by total energy consumed by the data center. DCeP allows each user to define useful work as applicable to the user’s business.

Jason Verge

March 20, 2014

4 Min Read
The Green Grid Unveils Energy Productivity Metric for Data Centers
Improved energy efficiency practices could cut server room energy waste by at least 40 percent, saving businesses and organizations over $3 billion annually, says NRDC.

The Green Grid has announced a new framework for measuring "useful work" in the data center. It is a metric five years in the making.

A global task force on data center efficiency announced agreement on standard approaches and reporting conventions for data center energy productivity (DCeP). It’s been a long road to DCeP, as it has been difficult to find agreement on a definition. The new approach will move the industry reporting beyond the current Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) benchmark, creating a more detailed metric that takes several other factors into consideration, and applies measurement to the business itself.

"Overall, global data center traffic is estimated to grow threefold from 2012 to 2017 and although data centers are becoming more efficient, their total energy use is projected to grow," said Deva Bodas, principal engineer and lead architect for Server Power Management at Intel Corporation and board member for The Green Grid. "With escalating demand for data center operations and rising energy costs, it is essential for data center owners and operators monitor, assess and improve performance using energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission metrics. This is why the recommendations of the taskforce are so important."

DCeP is an equation that quantifies useful work that a data center produces based on the amount of energy it consumes. The Green Grid is no stranger to attempting to quantify data center efficiency, coming up with many of the standards used today, such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which compares a facility’s total power usage to the amount of power used by the IT equipment, revealing how much is lost in distribution and conversion.

DCeP allows an organization to define “useful work” as it applies to its business. For example, a retail business may use number of sales as the measure for useful work, while an online search company may use the number of searches completed.

The Challenge of Defining Productivity

The Green Grid's effort to develop a productivity metric has been complicated by the differences in online businesses and how they measure “useful work” in the data center. Green Grid first set its sights on this in 2009. In October 2012, the broader global task force organized by The Green Grid reached consensus on the use of Green Energy Coefficient (GEC), Energy Reuse Factor (ERF) and Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE) metrics. These metrics were in addition to guidelines and specific measurement protocols for PUE, perhaps the most standard metric in use today when measuring efficiency in the data center. But PUE only shows a small part of a larger picture.

"Productivity is difficult to measure in a heterogeneous environment," said Mark Monroe, the CTO at DLB Associates and past executive director of The Green Grid, at the recent DataCenterDynamics Converged event in New York. "It's apples and oranges and hammers. Everyone would like a generic 'how am I doing' metric, but it's a basic measurement. The higher you get in the business stack, the less relevant the metric will be."

Now the Green Grid and the broader task force have finally arrived upon a flexible approach to address this challenge in measuring productitvity. DCeP is computed as useful work produced divided by total energy consumed by the data center. DCeP allows each user to define useful work as applicable to the user’s business. This aspect allows each user to create a custom metric that is meaningful for each user’s environment. There is a chance that Inconsistencies in data center comparisons can develop with this approach, but the intent is that over time, through use of the metrics and communication, the industry can harmonize the attributes to minimize inconsistency in comparisons.

Rising Profile for Data Centers

Data centers are an increasingly important part of most business operations, with escalating demand coupled with rising energy prices. Now more than ever it’s important to assess and improve performance. A white paper discusses proper, uniform ways in which a data center begins to measure Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), Green Energy Cooficient (GEC), Energy Reuse Factor (ERF), and Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE)

DCeP is seen as a more complete measure of data center efficiency than Power Usage Effectiveness (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.

The Green Grid has done exhaustive work in the field of metrics and is generally seen as the authority when it comes to measuring efficiency in the data center. The new metric for useful work, over 5 years in the making, will change the way we look at efficiency.

The global task force includes The Green Grid, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The European Commission, Japan’s Ministry of Economy and, Japan’s Green IT Promotion Council. With this fourth and final public memo, the task force concludes five years of work to harmonize directions designed to improve key energy efficiency metrics within data centers.

Data Center Knowledge Editor-in-Chief Rich Miller contributed to this story.

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