Data centre firms seek energy efficiency standard

Companies in the midst of consolidating their data centres are looking for standards to rate energy efficiency and tools for monitoring energy consumption in multivendor environments, said speakers at the Green Grid’s first Technical Forum, held Tuesday in San Francisco.

Allstate Insurance, which is consolidating four data centres to two, is pursuing a silver rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard for sustainable construction for its second data centre, slated to open in the spring of 2009. However “LEED is not designed for data centres but focuses on commercial buildings with people in [them],” said Brandi L. Landreth, director of continuity management and data centre strategy at the insurance company. She called for a ratings standard that would specifically apply to data centres.

Landreth also called for the tech industry to create a tool for monitoring and managing energy consumption across multivendor systems, and suggested that vendors should provide clear product road maps that would enable customers to plan their data centres for the next two, five and 10 years — though she acknowledged that it would be impossible to predict as far ahead as five or 10 years. Landreth also urged attendees to consider data centre physical building and IT systems as a whole platform when drawing up their green computing plans, saying that electrical vendors are now starting to network-attach their systems for easier monitoring.

A number of speakers at the Green Grid event said user education was the first challenge to greening their data centres. Educating internal users — even IT staff such as application developers — and computer component vendors of the need to focus on data centre efficiency instead of raw speed and power were two such challenges.

“We had to educate our applications department that there would be no loss of performance” from their servers due to consolidation, Landreth said. The development department was told to either use Allstate’s virtualized servers or pay for their own. The department chose the free processing.

At ADP, which three years ago consolidated from 20 data centres to two, going green meant talking to new partners — computer component manufacturers — instead of the usual computer hardware suppliers, said Renalto Crocetti, corporate vice-president at the payroll services company.

When Crocetti first started to discuss energy efficiency with component manufacturers, such as storage and processor vendors, they still had “automobile syndrome,” preferring to “race for raw speed and power” rather than energy efficiency, Crocetti said. Though this has changed, he said.

Jim Miller, assistant vice-president of IT at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said he spends much of his time meeting with IT equipment vendors “to influence their future products to reduce power and heat load.” Another challenge for the industry is to “debunk bogus claims” by some vendors that jump on the green computing bandwagon without producing technologies that genuinely meet the needs of companies that want to reduce their energy consumption, Miller said.