Turning the Power Down
There is more to the story than hardware; Vertal pointed to server virtualization as one way that software developers can impact the data center. "The best thing you can do is turn off a server that is not in use," Vertal said. The DOE pledged to work with the alliance to develop a common set of metrics and tools and to create a Web site so data center administrators can easily access tools and resources to initiate and implement energy management programs.The federal government has a key stake in this process: DOE data centers themselves represent 35 of the 500 largest data centers nationwide in terms of power consumption. But if the two partners agree on the path they need to take, they are not necessarily obeying the same speed limits. While Karsner said he expects the initial specifications for metrics that measure energy efficiency in data centers to be published by December, members of the alliance were less sanguine. Board members told eWEEK in separate interviews that it will be difficult to develop consensus around metrics quickly, especially given the disparate nature of different data centers. "It may well be a multistage process," said Roger Tipley, senior strategist with Hewlett-Packard, in Palo Alto, Calif. The DOE and the alliance also have slightly different perspectives on how much of the metrics to make public. Karsner likened the measurements to Energy Star ratings, which, while voluntary, are publicly promoted by companies to prove their products energy efficiency to consumers. But alliance members said they believe that companies might be more comfortable using the metrics to track internal improvement rather than as a comparative tool to be used against the competition. "The goal is not to try to set a bar that every data center has to reach but to help companies set goals so that they are more efficient," Dells Schuckle said. Karsner told eWEEK he sees government as an enabler to create a yardstick standard based on best practices "where industry is less likely to do it if left to their own devices." Energy efficiency is "too important to leave to industry by itself when the national interest is to be as efficient as possible for the aggregate good," he said. "The punch line," Karsner added, "is that we all get to be more profitable [as a result]." For Rackable, energy efficiency is a key part of its product road map, and the ICE Cube mobile data center is an example of that. ICE Cube is Rackables second attempt at a mobile data center in March, the company launched Concentro, a 40-by-8-foot mobile data center. With ICE Cube, Rackable is offering customers either a 20-by-8-foot or 40-by-8-foot trailer that can house up to 1,400 of its 1U (1.75-inch) servers. Rackable also will now offer Intels quad-core Xeon chip, which means the mobile data center can contain as many as 11,200 processor cores. Right now, the only vendors offering such mobile data centers are Rackable and Sun, with its Project Blackboxwhich combines storage, computing and network infrastructure, and high-efficiency power and liquid coolinginto modular units in standard 20-by-8-by-8-foot shipping containers. Rackables Barrenechea said ICE Cube has several advantages over Suns Project Blackbox, including Rackables use of its own Half-Depth Servers, which are only 15.5 inches deep. This means that Rackable can squeeze more systems into the center, Barrenechea said. In addition, Rackable removes all the fans from the servers, circulating cold air throughout the data center, and expels warm air by using several impeller fans. The ICE Cube data center also uses the companys DC power technology. Together, these and other innovations help reduce overall power and cooling costs, Barrenechea said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
The DOE is also putting some federal resources, such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley, Calif., at the disposal of the alliance for testing purposes.