With the rapid rise of power and cooling costs in the data center now a top concern across the IT industry, bringing together key IT players and competitors alike to address the problems around data center power management has become a critical issue. But don’t panic: help is at hand.
The Green Grid’s primary objective is to create a common language in order to define, measure and develop metrics and best practices around efficiency in the data center that can be employed industry-wide. Through education and the establishment of measurement standards, the group hopes to set a new precedent in the efforts around improving data center power efficiency. “Ultimately, we knew at the outset that in order to solve the issues our customers are facing regarding overall data center energy efficiency concerns, we needed to step back and look at the bigger picture,” says Dell’s Rick Shuckle, Director of the Green Grid. “When we looked at the holistic picture of the data center and its information service groups – silicon vendors, hardware vendors, power and cooling vendors, end-users, etc. – we realized we all needed to communicate better, understand the scope of the problem and then make sure our technology and equipment had the capabilities to address this challenge.”
Shuckle believes the definition of meaningful metrics is key to promoting energy efficiency for data centers. “Today we all have various metrics and models, but we ultimately need to speak the same language and have the same targets,” he says. “We can then develop standards, measurement methods, processes and technologies to help improve performance against those defined metrics. Getting those standards, processes, measurements and any new technologies adopted is the real goal and mission for the Green Grid.”
Back in August, PG&E became the first utility to join the consortium, and will now include Green Grid efficiency standards to expand its industry-leading financial incentive programs for customers who purchase premium efficiency servers, data storage devices, routers and other computing equipment. “We’ve developed an industry-leading portfolio of high-tech energy efficiency programs and services for our customers, and learning what constitutes premium efficiency for computing equipment will help us expand our offerings,” explains Brad Whitcomb, Vice President of Customer Products and Services for PG&E. “We want to provide our customers with information and incentives for the most energy efficient high-tech equipment on the market.”
PG&E’s existing server incentive programs applies to replacement projects where the utility can measure and calculate energy savings from the removal of old, inefficient servers and replacement of them with fewer and more energy efficient ones. Data centers can use up to one hundred times the energy per square foot of typical office space, so the energy efficiency opportunities are significant. The Green Grid standards will allow PG&E to expand its incentive program offerings to include new purchases of premium efficiency servers and other computing equipment.
Undoubtedly, the utility is a powerful addition to the Green Grid ranks. “PG&E brings a highly-valued perspective,” says Don Tilton, another Green Grid Director. “The utility’s leadership and experience in developing innovative high-tech energy efficiency programs will enhance our efforts to improve overall data center efficiency. As more utilities join, we expect to collaborate on standardizing demand response and energy efficiency incentive and rebate programs across the industry to accelerate the adoption of technologies that support this goal.”
A leader in energy efficiency for over 30 years, PG&E’s programs have saved customers nearly $10 billion and prevented approximately 125 million tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere to date. Going forward, PG&E is doing even more. Between 2006 and 2008, the utility is spearheading nearly $1 billion in enhanced energy-efficiency programs, which will avoid the need for more than 600 megawatts of new generation – or roughly the amount of electricity produced at a large power plant. In February, PG&E announced that it is leading the formation of a nationwide coalition of utilities to discuss and coordinate energy efficiency programs for the high-tech sector, focusing on data centers. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), TXU Electric Delivery, Austin Energy, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and NSTAR all signed on to the coalition, and since that time several additional utilities have asked to take part in the coalition, including two utilities in Canada.
“Our customers and the industry are asking us to expand our programs, and to promote them to other utilities,” says Mark Bramfitt, Principal Program Manager for the high-tech sector at PG&E. “Having industry-accepted measurement protocols will form the basis of new programs, and we hope to complement the Green Grid’s efforts with our knowledge and experience.”