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Green Grid offers roadmap for tackling energy issue

Under some criticism that it isn't doing enough to get to the bottom of the data center efficiency problem, The Green Grid consortium laid out its three-pronged approach to tackling the issue.

The Green Grid, a nonprofit consortium formed earlier this year to develop and promote energy efficiency in data centers, has laid out the three-pronged approach it's using to tackle the issue. The consortium promised numerous studies by the end of 2007 and a vision for efficient data center operation.

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"IT managers need guidance on what to start implementing today," said John Haas, energy and efficiency programs manager at Intel Corp., and a member of the Green Grid consortium, during a webcast Tuesday.

Haas was joined during the webcast by John Pflueger, technology strategist at Dell Inc., and also a member of the consortium. Haas said that although power consumption gets a "ton of press," the industry still lacks standards to measure energy efficiency in the data center. Current strategies are vendor-specific, departmentalized and proprietary, he said. In addition, there is "no clear roadmap" for future data center design and operations.

Collection, assessment, proposals

Pflueger said the consortium's plan of attack is based on three elements:

  • Collecting "real-time" data in the field from data centers;
  • Developing tools that will allow data center operators to assess their performance and measure it against like data centers;
  • And devising an "initial technology roadmap" to the most promising existing and emerging technologies that affect data center efficiency and performance. The assessment of these technologies will strongly consider ROI and risk to the end user.

The complex plan spans many working committees at The Green Grid. The aim is "identifying the tools that are truly going to be most effective at improving data center efficiency, assessing their level of maturity and what would have to happen in order for those technologies to be widely adopted within the data center," Pflueger said.

The Green Grid's 11-member board of directors is stocked with representatives from leading vendors such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc., Dell Inc., Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices.

A recent report from Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. warned that the consortium's membership is heavy on vendors and short on end-user organizations, which might make its work less relevant to users. According to the consultancy, The Green Grid members are facing a "balancing act" as they try to collaborate on common standards while simultaneously developing proprietary technologies that will differentiate them in the market. "Self-interest may prove a stronger motive than a common interest," the research warned.

Gartner analyst Rakesh Kumar, one of the authors of the report, said he didn't hear much new in the conference and his opinion of the group remains the same.

"This is the best we have as an industry and there is a chance to make significant inroads. But there is virtually no end-user presence, it is too U.S.-centric and not really a political lobbyist," he said in an email.

During a question-and-answer session following the presentation, Haas and Pflueger defended The Green Grid from the criticism leveled by the Gartner report, citing the group members' "common cause" and passion. Most standards bodies are made up of industry leaders.

"I don't think it is a detriment; it is what allows the Green Grid to be effective and allows an industry transition to happen," Haas said. The Green Grid is interested in end-user requirements, is listening to data center managers' concerns, has members from other countries, and makes prescriptions that aren't exclusive to a geography, Haas and Pflueger said.

Unplug and wait

Haas provided the details of the planned studies, the hallmarks being real-time data, fact-based analysis and practical advice that can be used immediately. A baseline market study promised for the third quarter will establish a common set of best practices that can be used by "any data manager."

"A lot of times when you ask data center managers today how they are figuring out which equipment is needed and which needs to be mothballed, they are basically making their best guess and unplugging the equipment to see if anybody raises a fuss," Haas said.

"We hope that the data center is instrumental in such a way that it becomes apparent which resources aren't being utilized and can allow the manager to consolidate the workload on a set of resources that become much more efficient," Haas said.

The group members punted on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's study on data center efficiency issued Aug. 3, saying they had not had time to digest it.

In answer to a question regarding whether data center efficiency was rising to the level of the CIO, or "taking a back seat to concerns about sacrificing performance," Haas and Pflueger signaled a sea change. Unlike the recent past, when data center managers and IT people didn't talk to each other, now "we're seeing them together," Haas said, and that is coming from "top-down." That said, Pflueger added that concerns about energy efficiency are regional. Customers on the East and West coasts, where energy shortages are most acute, are more aggressive about getting the most of their data centers.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer. News writer Shamus McGillicuddy also contributed to this story.

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