NEW YORK—Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems, competitors who rarely see eye-to-eye, are seemingly putting aside their differences to promote greener corporate data centers.
Dell, along with American Power Conversion and VMware, on May 2 joined the Green Grid Alliance, founded on April 19 by companies including Advanced Micro Devices, HP, IBM and Sun.
The alliance, which seeks to help cut the energy consumption of corporate data centers via education, the establishment of server power measurement standards and influencing product designs, arrives at a time when rising electrical rates, coupled with increases in the deployment of power-hungry servers, are causing major concerns about electricity consumption among many large businesses.
"The thing that we want to accomplish is to make sure that the industry has a place to go for best practices on energy efficiency in the data center. If we can get five ideas a year, that ripples in terms of economic, in terms of consumption of energy and that will have a profound impact on the world," said Marty Seyer, vice president of Commercial Business and Performance Computing at AMD, in Sunnyvale, Calif. "This is the place for that to come together. This is going to be good for the world, good for the IT departments. Data center leaders are going to join in with this to learn and to contribute."
AMD officials have said that the Green Grid Alliance will address data center power consumption and cooling, in part by looking at data center design and server deployment, as well as by fostering the creation of more energy-efficient computers and networking and storage gear. The group will also work toward creating standards for measuring server power consumption, which it says companies could use as tools to make better decisions about the machines they buy or other ways of fine-tuning their operations.
To date, there has been little oversight of data center power use and no real focus on how to curb it, said Henri Richard, AMDs chief sales and marketing officer.
"Automobile manufacturers are spending billions of dollars to try to improve your miles per gallon [of gasoline] and we as an industry did nothing until AMD decided were going to stop doing nothing," he said.
Yet servers also lead to the consumption of millions of barrels of oil, given that some electric companies use oil to generate electricity.
"Its about time somebody does something about bringing this up as a top-of-mind issue—not only for the sake of profit and loss statements and the fact that youre wasting a lot of money—but on a green basis. If we could take 30 percent of that away, itd be better for the environment."
AMD executives have also informally invited their counterparts from Intel to participate in the Green Grid Alliance, one person familiar with the matter said.
To be sure, companies in metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York, Tokyo and London are all generally concerned about securing enough space as well as enough electricity and cooling capacity for their data centers.
But not all of them try to optimize their power consumption, even though the effort would help to lower their electrical and cooling requirements and allow them to fit more computers into their existing spaces, AMD officials have said.
Thus the Green Grids first goal is to raise awareness about data center power, with the work on efforts to create power measurements and influence product designs coming later, AMD officials have indicated.
Although the chip maker has been working to rally others in the industry to address server power consumption, the Green Grid Alliance is not AMDs project, company executives said.
Thus they aim to turn over the groups administration to a third party in the near future.
The first meeting of the alliance, at which it will write a charter and conduct other business, is slated for June, AMD officials have said.
Meanwhile, the alliance may align with other like-minded groups, such as one—known loosely as the Eco Forum—that has been working on universal server power consumption measurements.
Representatives from AMD, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Sun and the EPA EnergyStar program have been involved in the Eco Forum effort, which also recently got off the ground.