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Zen and the Art of Data Center Greening (and Energy Efficiency)
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Commentary of Dr. Zen Kishimoto on news, trends, and opportunities in environmentally sustainable data centers and energy efficiency.


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What's Next with Data Center Energy Efficiency—Facilities or IT?

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What is the next trend in data center energy efficiency? I may be biased because I am more of an ICT guy than a facility guy, when I talk about data centers. Based on my unscientific data, 70%–80% of people who attend a data center conference are facility folks; IT folks are a minority. When I look back, data center energy efficiency has been discussed primarily from the viewpoint of the facility—the mechanical and electrical equipment and how it is operated.

In the opening speech of the 5th SVLG Data Center Energy Summit, Anne Smart, Director of Energy, Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), gave a good introduction to this topic as well as to Andrew Feldman, Corporate VP and General Manager, AMD, who delivered the keynote speech. You can watch their speeches here (a little over 16 minutes).

Andrew was CEO of SeaMicro, which developed and marketed low-power servers and was acquired by AMD earlier this year. Because the video is less than 20 minutes, you may want to invest your time in watching it yourself. But his point was simple. There is an area where we made significant progress in energy efficiency for data centers, but there is another area where we did not make much progress. The former is the facility side and the latter is the IT side. A lot has been done about energy efficiency in the facility area, such as finding better ways of cooling (hot/cold aisle and air economizer), which Andrew called low-hanging fruit. Now cooling efficiency has improved to three one-hundredths of the power required to run a server.

Now about IT. Let me inject my thoughts here before going on with Andrew’s speech. Before he started discussing the energy efficiency of IT in the data center, I knew I was going to agree with him. We have been trying to alleviate the symptom of data center energy problems by attempting to control cooling and power rather than curing the root cause of the data center energy crisis, that is, efficient ICT equipment and making better use of it, that is, running it without utilizing its full capacity. Emerson in its energy logic claims that IT is the root cause of the large consumption of power in data centers and we had better control IT. We are beginning to pay more attention to IT as we try to control data center power usage. We need to pay more attention to using more energy efficient equipment, such as SeaMicro's, and using virtualization to increase the utilization of each server. We need more than PUE to gauge and measure IT efficiency. There have been a few data center metrics proposed, such as McKinsey's CADE. The Japanese have proposed DPPE. Both metrics take IT’s behaviors into consideration. I recently found an interesting metric for IT energy efficiency called Par 4. I have not reviewed it yet, but the short description I read sounds interesting. I plan to write a separate blog on it.

Andrew started to talk about IT (servers) in terms of data center energy efficiency. He dealt with server energy efficiency at SeaMicro with low-power chips before he came to AMD. And he is one of the most qualified persons to discuss the subject. He bluntly stated that he was disappointed at the progress we have made in that department, because a server is the most powerful consumer of power in a data center and needs more attention.

He mentioned that like anything else energy efficiency improvement for servers began with the low-hanging fruit. In this case, it was the power supply. The power supply used to lose 18% in transit from PDU to server. Now with advances in power supply technology, it is down to 7%. But the real meat in energy efficiency is the server itself. At SeaMicro, Andrew and his team developed a server that requires only a quarter of the power necessary for other servers. But it took five years and $50M, which was not readily available from the VC community in the funding climate then. He is thankful to the Department of Energy and the State of California for their grants that made it possible for SeaMicro to complete their servers.

He wrapped up his talk by saying that we should not stop innovating in energy efficiency in both facility and server technologies. Power is such a big problem in the data center that we need to keep working on it.

Tags:  AMD  Andrew Feldman  IT energy efficiency  SeaMicro  SVLG  SVLG DCEE 

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First Report from SVLG DCEE: 1,000 Hearts for 1,000 Minds

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Monday, November 21, 2011

The fourth annual SVLG Data Center Energy Efficiency Conference was held Nov. 18 at IBM Almaden Research Labs in San Jose, CA. 

SVLG stands for Silicon Valley Leadership Group, whose vision (from its website) is to:

Ensure the economic health and a high quality of life in Silicon Valley for our entire community by advocating for adequate affordable housing, comprehensive regional transportation, reliable energy, a quality K-12 and higher education system and prepared workforce, a sustainable environment, and business and tax policies that keep California and Silicon Valley competitive.

SVLG has been offering data center energy efficiency (DCEE) conferences for the past three years. It is situated in southern San Jose and surrounded by a large, natural open space.

Like the previous conferences, this one was sold out, and a lot of people showed up.

Crowds at SVLG DCEE conference. There are more rows behind this.

The agenda for the program was as follows:

I will report on the entire conference, and some sessions in detail, in upcoming blogs.

Carl Guardino, CEO of SVLG, gave the opening remarks. Although he covered a few topics, I only remember one thing (sorry, Carl!!).

Carl Guardino

It is a joint program between SVLG and the City of San Jose to donate your time and money to match 1,000 adult volunteers with 1,000 struggling K–8 public school students to help eliminate the achievement gap in SV.

More can be found here One type of contribution is to spread the word. So this is a part of my contribution.

Tags:  Almaden Research Center  data center  DCEE11  energy efficiency  IBM  SVLG 

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Busy Week of November 14 for Back-to-Back Data Center Conferences

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Friday, November 4, 2011
Two conferences are coming up in the week of Nov. 14: 6SigmaDC Data Center Conference and User Group (Nov. 15–17) and Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Data Center Energy Efficiency on Nov. 18. I plan to attend both of them. If you are there, let’s get together.

For more details, check the following.

6SigmaDC Data Center Conference and User Group at San Francisco Marriott, Union Square

SVLG DCEE at IBM Almaden Research Center

Tags:  6Sigma DC  Data center  Future Facitlities  SVLG  SVLG DCEE 

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Next SVLG Data Center Efficiency Summit

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Monday, June 28, 2010

The SVLG Energy Summit just ended. It gathered more than 500 people. AltaTerra will prepare a summary report on the conference. The next big thing for SVLG is the third annual conference on data centers. AltaTerra was involved in the second conference in several capacities, such as chairing a panel session on carbon and data centers, participating in program preparation, and editing case study reports. This year, AltaTerra is contributing as a programming committee and will prepare a summary report on the conference.

Here’s the brochure for the 2010 Data Center Efficiency Summit.

Tags:  datacenter efficiency  SVLG 

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My Upcoming Panel at BrightTalk Efficient Data Center Summit

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Thursday, April 15, 2010
Updated: Thursday, April 15, 2010

I will be moderating a panel titled "Data Center Efficiency via IT Optimization, Standards, and Collaboration” at the BrightTalk Efficient Data Center Summit April 21, from 11 a.m. PDT, as you can see here. Energy consumption by U.S. data centers has been increasing, and some are running out of power for their growing number of servers and other IT equipment. To make the matter worse, IT equipment generates excessive heat, which must be rejected, and cooling requires more power.

Power crisis and energy efficiency, as they relate to data centers, have been discussed at many conferences and meetings. In this panel, we will take a different angle on three topics. One is IT energy efficiency improvement. A 2007 EPA report looked at five different scenarios for the past, present, and future of data center power consumption. Each scenario is defined by the energy efficiency of both IT and facilities. Of course, the facilities side is important, but the very reason to have IT equipment is to support business needs. IT comes before facilities, and we need to consider IT equipment energy efficiency as such. Each of the five scenarios has a different degree of the following to achieve a different level of energy efficiency:

  • Turning off of unused servers

  • Virtualization

  • Power management

  • Hardware refresh

  • Storage equipment efficiency

The EPA study was conducted in 2006. In the four years since then, IT energy efficiency technologies and practices should have become more innovative. First, we would like to explore that. Second, several data center organizations advocate different metrics, technologies, and practices for energy efficiency. Doesn’t it make sense to have one set of standards for everyone to use, eliminating the confusion? Third, to produce a single set of standards, all these data center organizations must get together and collaborate rather than continuing individually to develop their own, all of which may be slightly different.

Summing up, these are the three topics:

  • IT energy efficiency optimization

  • Standards

  • Collaboration

We are fortunate to have four experts in data centers and data center energy efficiency for this panel:

  • Richard Garrison, board member of the 7´24 Exchange California chapter and senior principal at Alfa Tech Cambridge Group

  • Jon Haas, director of Eco-Technologies at Intel and board member of The Green Grid

  • KC Mares, co-chair of the SVLG Data Center Energy Efficiency Demonstration Program and president of MegaWatt Consulting

  • Dean Nelson, founder and chairman of Data Center Pulse and senior director of eBay

We expect a lively conversation on these topics. Again, you can join us for this webinar at your desk at 11 a.m. PDT on April 21. See you then.

Tags:  7x24  Brighttalk  Datacenter Pulse  Dean Nelson  Green Grid  Jon Haas  KC Mares  Rich Garrison  SVLG 

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Open Sourcing Data Center Design

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Friday, March 5, 2010

In "Open Sourcing Data Center Design,” Rich Miller of Data Center Knowledge today wrote about a new effort to transform data centers. When I first saw the headline, I thought his article was about applying open source software to data centers. I worked with MySQL and JBoss in my previous life and got very interested in this.

But when I read on, I realized that the idea is not the use of open source but the use of the philosophy of open source, which is open and freely sharable. Let’s refer to Miller’s posting:

The Open Source Data Center Initiative aims to "provide a platform for stable, secure, efficient and sustainable state-of-the-art operations that can be replicated world-wide, accomplished through public/private investment.”

The people and organizations behind it:

[Mike] Manos is working with Dave Ohara of Green M3, Enginuity Worldwide LLC and the University of Missouri.

Manos is quoted as saying:

"This Open Source Data Center Initiative is focused around execution. It’s focused around putting together an open and free engineering framework upon which data center designs, technologies, and the like can be quickly put together and standardize the [way] both end-users and engineering firms approach the data center industry.

"If you think of the Linux movement, and all of those who actively participate in submitting enhancements, features, even pulling together specific build packages for distribution, one could even see such things emerging in the data center engineering realm.”

What is the difference between the Open Source Data Center Initiative and existing industry groups like SVLG, Data Center Pulse, 7x27, Critical Facilities Round Table, and The Green Grid?

Manos is quoted as saying it’s this:

"These groups have been out espousing best practices for years. They have been pushing for change (for the most part). They do a great job of highlighting the challenges we face, but for the most part have waited around for universal good will and monetary pressures to make them happen.”

I wonder what other organizations have to say about it. I know Mike Manos was a member of Data Center Pulse. I will moderate a data center energy efficiency panel in an event put together by BrightTalk. One of the themes of the panel will be collaboration. I wonder whether the Open Source Data Center Initiative can collaborate with other existing organizations.

Tags:  7x24  Critical facilities Round Table  Data Center Pulse  Mike Manos  Open Source Data Center Initiative  SVLG  The Green Grid 

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Do We Need Two New Large Power Plants Every Year to Keep Up Data Center Power?

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Thursday, February 25, 2010

The New York Times (NYT) recently reported that:

Google Inc won approval from U.S. energy regulators to act as a power marketer, which will make it easier for the Internet search giant to obtain renewable energy to run its huge data centers.

This news was reported by several other media sources, including:

But my attention is on the last two paragraphs in the NYT article:

Information technology and telecommunications facilities, such as those that Google owns, account for approximately 120 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually—or 3 percent of all U.S. electricity use, according to the Energy Department.

Rapid growth in the U.S. data center industry is projected to require two new large power plants per year just to keep pace with the expected demand growth, the department says.

As I reported back in 2008, according to the report published by EPA for the U.S. Congress in 2007, data center power consumption doubled from 2000 to 2006. In 2006, data center power consumption was roughly 1.5% of the whole nation’s. Without any remedy, this figure will double again by 2011, requiring multiple power plants to accommodate the increase.

The EPA report considered five scenarios, two of which aggressively apply state-of-the-art technologies and operating methods to curb such an increase.

There has been no update on this report since 2007, and it is hard to tell whether the trend has been curbed. The 3% figure cited in the NYT article is often obtained by doubling 1.5%. As a very rough estimate, it may be true, but groups like SVLG and its members have a lot of efforts under way to curb the increase. We need an update of the EPA report now to assess where we are in terms of data center power consumption. 

Tags:  Data Center power consumption  EPA  Google  SVLG 

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More Case Studies for SVLG Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Monday, January 11, 2010
Remember the success of the SVLG Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit in October?  Because of some scheduling difficulties, not all the case studies have been added to the SVLG site  yet.  But we at AltaTerra are doubling our efforts to edit those reports for publication, As each report becomes ready, SVLG puts it online. We encourage you to visit the website from time to time because those case studies are very useful if you want to enhance your data center energy efficiency, which is a hot topic. See this site for the DOE grants on data center energy efficiency.

Tags:  Case study reports  Data center energy efficiency  DCEE  SVLG 

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Department of Energy Presentation at SVLG Data Center Energy Efficiency Summit

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Monday, October 26, 2009
DOE’s Paul Scheihing gave a talk on what DOE is doing to improve data center energy efficiency. Scheihing is in charge of the Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) at DoE, into which data centers are classified.

Here are some of the projects DOE is working on:
  • DC-Pro—Free profiling software to show how power is consumed at a given data center; gives you both PUE and DCIE.
  • Training program—Under development with ASHRAE.
  • Certification—To certify professionals for energy assessment at data centers.
  • R&D—Stimulus money–based program; award to be announced in November.

Scheihing also talked about the DOE program called Save Energy Now.

See the videos for details.


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EPA Energy Star Presentation at SVLG DCEE

Posted By Zen Kishimoto, Friday, October 23, 2009
Andrew Fanara of EPA gave a presentation on what the agency has been doing about Energy Star for IT gear. Even though many articles and blogs have been written about on the subject, this 11-minute video is a good summary that can help you understand it.

Fanara talked about Energy Star for:
  • Desktop computers
  • Server computers
  • Data centers (the next webinar is November 12, see here)

For some reason, he did not touch on Energy Start for storage devices. Towards the end of his presentation, a slide stated that EPA uses PUE instead of EUE, which was described in the webinar at the end of September (see my previous blog)

Fanara did not mention this point, but Bill Tschudi of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory asked about it. Fanara acknowledged that EPA uses PUE rather than EUE.

Tags:  DCEE  Energy Stwsa  EPA  SVLG 

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