Understanding the environmental impacts of business technology is a relatively new field, but it’s growing fast thanks to rising energy costs, environmental awareness and increasingly strict energy-use regulations.
According to Bill Kosik, Director of Energy and Sustainability Initiatives at EYP Mission Critical Facilities (EYP MCF), a company of HP, a typical 20,000 square foot enterprise data center using 100 watts per square foot will have a peak cooling demand similar to that of a 200,000 sq. ft. commercial office building. Its annual energy consumption equates to a 400,000 sq. ft. office building. So business and IT managers have as much reason as anyone to be serious about efficient energy use.
“Whether you’re trying to save money or reduce your carbon footprint, your end goal is the same,” says Kosik. “If you’re only trying to save money it doesn’t mean you throw out environmental considerations, and vice versa.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on server and data center efficiency issued in August 2007 examined data center power use and suggested ways to reduce it. “Clearly the government is treating this topic seriously,” Kosik says. “Some kind of policy will result that deals with how business technology uses energy.” For example, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to jointly designate an organization to consult with and to coordinate a voluntary national information program for energy efficiency in data centers. Regulation may be around the corner if voluntary programs don’t produce tangible results.
HP’s acquisition of EYP MCF combined that company’s expertise and portfolio of services—including facilities and technology planning, design, commissioning and ongoing operational consulting—with HP’s Data Center Transformation Services. The resulting lifecycle solution integrates environmentally sound methods for power and cooling into a data center before it’s even built, and can provide further improvements as it evolves.
Kosik is encouraged by how the industry is taking up the challenge. He points to organizations such as the Green Grid, a consortium whose mandate is to “improve energy efficiency in data centers around the globe.” In addition to the Green Grid, HP is working on the development of technical standards for:
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- The U.S. Department of Energy
- The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
All of these organizations are leaders in the research and development of data center energy and environmental topics, resulting in detailed technical standards and guidelines.
It’s at this granular level where the most interesting possibilities are. For example, Kosik believes that metrics such as data center infrastructure efficiency (DCiE) will become cornerstones of data center power efficiency planning and benchmarking. As these metrics mature, it is likely that they will be formalized as part of energy codes specific to data centers.