Datacentre group collaborates with EC over green measures

Datacentre consortium The Green Grid is working with the European Commission (EC) to improve efficiency and sustainability in datacentres

The European Commission (EC) and datacentre industry consortium The Green Grid are collaborating on policies to improve efficiency in datacentres.

Non-profit industry lobby group The Green Grid includes datacentre users, policy makers, technology providers, facility architects and utility companies.

Speaking at The Green Grid Forum 2012, experts said a clear and uniform action plan must be implemented if IT is serious about limiting its greenhouse gas emissions.

“Datacentres consume 2% of total global electricity consumption and this is set to double in the next few years,” said Colette Maloney, head of sustainability unit at the EC.

“But currently there is no uniform strategy, metric or methodology to curb carbon footprint,” Maloney said.

Metric standardisation

“We see lot of enterprises claiming they have improved their datacentre’s energy efficiency, but everyone uses a different methodology and a different baseline to calculate energy efficiency,” Maloney said.

“There are a lot of energy-efficiency boosting initiatives undertaken at an individual or organisational level, but as policymakers, the European Commission is not able to have a view on how all that adds up."

The EC is calling for standardisation in IT energy efficiency metrics. “We want to see more refinement in metrics,” Maloney said.

One of the most commonly accepted datacentre energy metric is Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). But experts at The Green Grid admitted PUE has been abused and misused.

Many businesses calculate PUE based on just regular cooling techniques and come with an impressive PUE result. But they fail to take into account cooling generated by energy-guzzling UPS devices, said Andre Rouyer, European chair of The Green Grid.

But there are other metrics in use in the market. Just last week, a global taskforce selected three new IT energy efficiency metrics, including the Green Energy Coefficient (GEC), Energy Reuse Factor (ERF) and Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE).

The British Computer Society (BCS) has its own metric called  Fixed to Variable Energy Ratio (FVER), a simple PUE-like metric that measures wasted energy in the datacentre, including software, IT and the facility itself.

Each of these metrics is calculated on a slightly different basis and gives a slightly different outcome. Experts agreed there needs to be a common framework – such as an improved PUE – against which all enterprises can measure their datacentre’s power usage.

“What we want from metrics is that they must be relevant to measure and report IT performance and they must be user-comparable, said Adrian Jones, member of BCS. 

“What is used by one organisation must be usable in the same way by other organisations,” Jones said.

EC collaborates for datacentre efficiency

The EC has developed a code of conduct to reduce energy consumption. Many of the best practices outlined in the EC’s code of conduct come from its collaboration with industry bodies such as The Green Grid.

“Collaboration between policy-makers, industry bodies and technology providers is crucial because the industry’s feedback can be used to formulate policies and regulations,” said David Snelling, European vice-chair at The Green Grid. 

Collaboration between government bodies and industry will also help spread the awareness of energy efficiency, said Mark Schiller, The Green Grid’s executive director. 

“Today, CIOs have a list of priorities but datacentre energy efficiency isn’t a top one,” Schiller said.

Joint efforts will help industry bodies to demonstrate the return on investment of a green datacentre to these CIOs, he said. But Schiller called for CIOs and CFOs to make datacentre efficiency a priority.

They are aware there are many technologies that can cut carbon emissions and save costs, they just need to put that into practice, Schiller said.

“Datacentres are no doubt critical infrastructures and as its energy issues become more visible – such as the New York Times’s article exposing datacentre inefficiency – it will get political and legislative shades,” Snelling said. 

“A collaborated and uniform action-plan will become crucial.”

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