Where to turn for advice about data-center power consumption

Get a grip on your IT power consumption with metrics and guidance from these data center experts

The Green Grid, SNIA Green Storage Initiative, the Green Data Project and the EPA with its Energy Star program are all working on ways to better assess how much data center power enterprises need.

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The Green Grid

Founded: February 2006

Purpose: Formed to build metrics and provide better communications among data-center facilities and IT staffs, so that the people who pay the power bills (facilities) can work with the people who generate them (IT).

Key vendor participants: Advanced Micro Devices, American Power Conversion, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Rackable Systems, SprayCool, Sun and VMware.

Enterprise participation: AllState Insurance, British Telecom, Digital Realty Trust, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, News Corp., University of California San Diego and the Uptime Institute.

Work to date: Offers the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency (DCiE) metrics for tracking data-center power consumption.

Future work: Will provide workload-specific IT productivity metrics with the aim of enabling better planning and tracking of overall data-center power consumption. These metrics, for use with PUE and DCiE, should begin to appear next year.

Applicability scorecard: A-. The group has produced workable metrics and has key partnerships across the board with the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), such groups as the Storage Networking Industry Association's (SNIA) Green Storage Initiative, and key enterprise users. One caveat: The Green Grid takes a broad look at the data center as a whole, and the result could be slowly evolving, less specific guidelines.

SNIA's Green Storage Initiative

Founded: October 2007

Purpose: Focused on data-center storage issues, the group's goals are to evangelize the need for power efficiency in storage and to produce power-efficiency metrics for data-center storage hardware, such as arrays and switches.

Key vendor participants: Brocade Communications, CA, Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, LSI, Microsoft, Network Appliance, Oracle, QLogic, Seagate Technology, Sun and Symantec.

Enterprise participation: Primarily vendors, although some nonprofits and small enterprises hold nonvoting positions. A sample includes the Arizona Department of Transportation, Hudson's Bay Co. and Nielsen Media Group.

Work to date: Technical working groups are building storage metrics for array capacity (watts per gigabyte of storage), switch efficiency (watts per gigabit of bandwidth) and server I/O (watts per number of operations). SNIA is planning a series of plugfests this spring to collect storage-power data from various data center environments. Initial metrics are expected by year-end.

Future work: Once the metrics are built, SNIA will hand them off to enterprises and larger programs to use in developing data-center power metrics. Potential recipients include The Green Grid and the Energy Star program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the DoE.

Applicability scorecard: B-. The group's focus on storage is a plus, because storage this year is set to overtake servers in data-center power consumption, IDC says. Still, it is vendor-run, expensive to join ($2,500 for nonvoting members, in addition to SNIA membership dues) and slow moving.

The Green Data Project

Founded: September 2007

Purpose: Focuses on storage from a software standpoint. The group intends to evangelize data-management best practices, including use of e-mail- and database-archiving software, to reduce overall storage needs and thus power consumption.

Key vendor participants: C2C Systems, CA, Caringo, Clearview Software, Data Islandia, Data Management Institute, FileTek, JPR Communications, KOM Networks, Plasmon, Qstar Technologies, Toigo Partners, TPI Technologies and Zerowait.

Enterprise participation: American International Group, Family Dollar Stores, FedEx, Mars and the county of Santa Clara, Calif., among others.

Work to date: White papers, some best practices reports, and ongoing dialogue via the Drunkendata.com blog.

Future work: Planning a free Compliance, Carbon footprint reduction, Cost savings and Continuity (C4) summit in Tampa, Fla., this spring aimed at getting members together to discuss data-management strategies within vertical industries. Eventually, the project will publish a series of vertical-focused best practices guides for data management.

Applicability scorecard: B. Focus on cleaning up storage practices will make hardware initiatives more efficient. The group has good enterprise representation among its 5,000 members to date, with no cost to join. The jury is out on how big an impact cleaner data management will have on the overall power problem.

The EPA's Energy Star Program

Founded: Energy Star began in 1992 as an energy-efficiency labeling program primarily for consumer products. In August 2007, the EPA released a study on data-center power consumption, which found that data centers consume 1.5% of total U.S. electricity.

Purpose: Create Energy Star ratings for data centers.

Key vendor participants: Vendor sponsors for recent stakeholder discussions included APC, Emerson Network Power, HP, Intel, SprayCool and VMware.

Enterprise participation: Primarily a government-run program, although recent meetings drew attendees from eBay, Pacific Gas & Electric and Wells Fargo Bank.

Work to date: Released report findings. Along with The Green Grid and other groups, the EPA is developing energy-efficiency specifications for data-center equipment.

Future work: Will build an Energy Star benchmark for data centers that reflects whole-building operations, but has not nailed down when it will be available.

Applicability scorecard: B+. Should provide vendor-neutral energy-efficiency benchmarks any enterprise could use. Has a strong partnership with industry, including The Green Grid. Still, it's a government-run program that moves slowly.

Cummings is a freelance writer in North Andover, Mass. She can be reached at jocummings@comcast.net.

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