Green Grid plans "Data Center 2.0" design guide

Group details energy-efficient datacenter guidelines, productivity metrics

The Green Grid consortium will announce plans Wednesday to create a "top-to-bottom" design guide for building energy-efficient datacenters, as well as new metrics for estimating datacenter productivity.

The plans will be discussed at Green Grid's second annual conference in San Jose, Calif., where the consortium will also provide some advice about how to use its PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) metric introduced last year, which provides a way to measure data center efficiency.

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The consortium's members are mostly IT vendors but also include some end-user companies, such as The Walt Disney Co. and eBay. It was set up two years ago to produce tools, metrics, and educational resources to help solve the problem of escalating power consumption in datacenters.

The "Data Center 2.0" design guide will offer ways to minimize energy use for both new facilities and those being retrofitted, said Mark Monroe, a Green Grid board member and the director of sustainable computing for Sun Microsystems. The first release will be out in about a year, he said.

"It's meant as an end-to-end guide, from the IT equipment all the way through to the facility infrastructure that supports it, and as a top-to-bottom guide, from measurement and management through to operations and how you run the datacenter," Monroe said.

There is already a plethora of documentation devoted to reducing energy use in datacenters. The Green Grid says there remains a need for a "single authoritative source" that looks at datacenters holistically.

It was the Green Grid that came up last year with the PUE ratio, which provides a way to measure overall datacenter efficiency and has been used by Microsoft and Google to show off the efficiency of their most state-of-the-art datacenters.

It can be hard for everyday companies to know what sort of PUE ratio they should aim for or how to measure it, so the consortium will also release a paper in the coming months that tells them just that, said John Tuccillo, another Green Grid board member and the vice president for global industry and government alliances with American Power Conversion.

The consortium will also propose methods for measuring the "useful work" performed by datacenters. All these metrics are important, proponents say, because businesses can't set accurate targets for energy efficiency if they don't know how efficient their datacenters are to start with. "You can't manage what you can't measure," is a refrain commonly heard at these conferences.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that datacenters accounted for 1.5 percent of the nation's electricity consumption in 2006, and it said that figure could double by 2011. Many companies are facing energy problems in their datacenters, as powerful modern servers and the shift to doing business online stretches their power and cooling capacities.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.