Energy Star

disclosure: this post was written with the help of external contributors under the supervision of Edwige Cottigny and the Orange Business Internet and Digital media team

Shoot for a green star: how does your data centre stack up?

In a 2007 report to the United States Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that American servers and data centres used 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWH), or 1.5% of total electricity consumed in the U.S. in 2006. The price tag? A staggering $4.5 billion--not to mention the unmonetised environmental costs. And the figures are only rising. Energy consumption is expected to skyrocket to 100 billion kWh, or $7.4 billion, by 2011.

Fortunately, there is significant room to improve energy efficiency between now and then. Businesses can now fight climate change while cutting costs and putting forth a greener image.

A new global standard for data centre efficiency
As part of its broader ENERGY STAR initiative unveiled in 1992, the U.S. EPA recently launched an ENERGY STAR Rating for Data Centers. A number of other governments are considering adopting the label for data centres. Current ENERGY STAR partners include Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and Taiwan.

In order to achieve the coveted "green star", a data centre must rank among the top 25% in terms of energy efficiency. For now, performance is evaluated according to the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric developed by The Green Grid, which compares an IT facility's total power usage to the amount of power used by the IT equipment alone. A company's rating is based on the average PUE ratio for 12 months of actual measured data. Although some are critical of the methodology, it's widely considered a good first step. Ideally, a metric that compares data centre outputs with energy inputs will be adopted in the future.

Why ENERGY STAR should be on your radar
In addition to enabling companies to identify energy efficiency gains and establish themselves as environmental leaders, ENERGY STAR is a way for customers to compare businesses, monitor companies' eco-progress, and make more environmentally informed choices.

The right to use the ENERGY STAR logo for your data centre is a valuable marketing tool for any company. To get started:
  • Join the ENERGY STAR initiative to publicly demonstrate your organisation-wide commitment to energy conservation.
  • Take the ENERGY STAR Challenge and commit to improve your company's energy efficiency by 10% or more.
  • Use the ENERGY STAR Guidelines for Energy Management to develop an energy management program.
  • Use the Portfolio Manager to determine your ENERGY STAR ranking once you have accumulated enough data.

Participating companies can compete in the ENERGY STAR Awards and aim to become an ENERGY STAR Leader--each honour more exclusive than the last.

The initiative also poses an emerging opportunity for companies in the business of energy efficiency tools. U.S.-based Modius, for example, has jumped into the mix with data centre monitoring and management software that offers capacity analysis and resource management capabilities to help companies work more efficiently.

Read more:
Orange Business and green it
measuring the environmental footprint of a product or service

Edwige Cottigny

Within the digital team of Orange Business, I lead content and special projects.