Zinc Whiskers: Silicon Valley Leads on Green Data Centers and Best Practices
September 1, 2008
Now that the U.S. EPA’s Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency (see www.energystar.gov/datacenters) is history, we absolutely must keep abreast of where its recommendations and plans take us. Activities resulting from that report are quickly establishing that energy efficiency will clearly provide much of the technical foundation for new data center IT and Facilities best practices. Two truths are becoming perfectly clear.
First, many of our best practices will be developed and implemented through government-sponsored programs soon to become commonplace in our industry. We should all prepare for DOE’s Save Energy Now Program (www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/saveenergynow/partnering_data_centers.html), and EPA’s EnergyStar Building Certification Program for Data Centers (www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=prod_development.server_efficiency#data_collection) as well as a few other programs like the California Energy Commission’s Recommended Criteria for Data Center LEED Certification. Participation in these programs will increase the value of data centers and provide owners with a sound return on their energy-efficiency investment.
Second, the federal government has very high expectations about how we will manage power in data centers. The EPA defined three efficiency scenarios that envision very specific goals for energy use by data centers nationally, and it expects the industry to move to meet the Improved Operation Level, at a minimum. The EPA says its recommended solutions are very achievable in both old and new IT spaces.
The Silicon Valley Leadership GroupBecause one northern California philanthropic organization has taken on much of the leadership challenge, the industry is better off today. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group (Leadership Group) is a vehicle for its member companies to address major public policy issues in a cooperative effort with government officials to keep California and Silicon Valley competitive.
In 2006, the Leadership Group created a Data Center Energy Efficiency Committee to support EPA’s Report to Congress by performing demonstrations of the recommended technologies and by refining the energy-savings models developed in the report. Committee Chairman Ray Pfeifer put together an outstanding team of data center stakeholders and received excellent support from many Silicon Valley companies to test and measure energy-efficiency opportunities in their own operating data centers.
Ray used LBNL’s Direct Current Power Distribution studies, developed by Bill Tschudi and his team of experts in 2005 at Sun Microsystems’ California data centers, as a an excellent model for technology demonstrations (www.high tech.lbl.gov/datacenters.html). With LBNL’s guidance, the group has performed 11 more demonstrations of technologies that EPA identified as energy efficiency opportunities.
The results of the 11 technology demonstrations are nothing short of astounding. Compute efficiencies are improved by factors of two and three, and PUEs for large-scale data centers are as low as 1.28.
Accenture refined the underlying model developed by LBNL (using real operating data) in order to re-publish the energy savings curves in the EPA study. And, based upon preliminary results, the Leadership Group is likely to show that we really can achieve the savings that EPA expects with reasonable returns on investment.
Data Center Energy SummitThe Leadership Group organized “Data Center Energy Summit 2008” to showcase these important results to the rest of the country. Sun Microsystems hosted the conference at its Santa Clara, CA, campus.
The Data Center Energy Summit is the industry’s first conference to feature a full day of real-world case studies covering sustainable data center design, energy-efficient engineering, and operational best practices of green computing. It included an interactive panel discussion with CIOs from the State of California, Sun Microsystems, VMware, and Symantec. The conference focuses on the impact of Accenture’s consolidated report that evaluates EPA’s data center energy savings scenarios with real-world case studies.
All the DetailsThe conference includes presentations of case studies that demonstrate innovative green IT technologies and critical facilities infrastructure. Here are some of the details:
IT Computing Resource Optimization. Network Appliance and Synopsys implement dynamic resource optimization to dramatically maximize the utilization of existing computer equipment. Network Appliance implements Cassatt’s Active Power Management and Synopsys implements a homegrown solution.
IT Consolidation and Virtualization. Sun Microsystems and Symantec reduce IT demands by consolidating and virtualizing computer and storage equipment in both R&D and production environments.
Data Center Air Flow Management. LBNL and Oracle quantify the impact of implementing airflow management improvements including blanking plates and hot aisle containment.
High Efficiency Power Transformation. The United States Postal Service limits electrical distribution system energy losses by upgrading to high efficiency power conversion units.
Server Power Characterization and Modeling. Sun Microsystems demonstrates the improved energy efficiency of its next generation servers using Power Assure to measure energy use as a function of load.
Free Cooling in Large Scale Data Centers. Digital Realty Trust, Network Appliance, and Yahoo! quantify the savings from outside air free cooling in large-scale data centers and why contamination has not impacted IT equipment reliability.
High Voltage AC Power. Yahoo! benchmarks the IT power loss in traditional power distribution systems comparing against the power loss savings achievable by using 600 Vac power distribution.
High Efficiency Chilled Water Systems. LBNL benchmarks several high efficiency chilled water plants and reports on the real kilowatt per ton efficiency with best in class technology.
Wireless Sensor Network Adaptive Cooling. Yahoo! demonstrates the energy-efficiency gains possible in a high-density data center through improved air flow management and a SynapSense mesh wireless sensor based monitoring and control system that dynamically matches cooling to the IT load.
High Efficiency Stand-by Power. Network Appliance and Yahoo! demonstrate energy efficiency gains through using flywheel back-up power systems instead of traditional battery UPS systems.
Close-Coupled Cooling Systems Efficiency Performance Testing (Chill Off). Sun Microsystems hosts a side-by-side comparison of performance and energy efficiency of new close-coupled cooling systems from APC, Liebert, IBM, Rittal, and Spraycool technologies.
Integrate Real Results into a Refined EPA Model. Accenture consolidates the case study findings to quantify the EPA energy savings scenarios with measured results.
What's NextThe Leadership Group’s program is so successful that the California Energy Commission plans to provide funding for the continuation of the program in 2008 and 2009. Later this summer, it expects to look for new technologies and new host facilities to further refine their models and confirm DOE’s energy savings scenarios. The long-term plan for the future is to create a “virtual data center” model that can combine several technologies and compare the energy efficiencies of various IT and Facilities configurations.
On June 26, the Critical Facilities Roundtable (CFRT) participated in the Leadership Group’s Data Center Energy Summit. Many CFRT members provided space in their data centers and installed technology and equipment to be assessed for these demonstrations, and others led in the preparation and implementation of the many tests and measurements.
CFRT is a non-profit organization, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, dedicated to information sharing and solutions development amongst our member owners and operators of critical facilities. Please visit our Web site at www.cfroundtable.org or contact us at 415-748-0515 for more information.