Looking Back and Looking Ahead at Data Center Efficiency: The Green Grid Turns Five

Please note: This blog post originally apeared as an industry perspective on Data Center Knowledge.

Among important data center industry milestones this year is the fifth anniversary of The Green Grid, the premier international consortium for resource-efficient IT. Formed by eleven founding member companies in 2007 the organization grew rapidly and today boasts approximately 150 General and Contributing and ten Board member companies. Since its formation the organization has contributed a tremendous amount to the data center “science” of efficiency.

Here is just a partial list of key results and contributions made by the Green Grid so far:

Harmonization of the PUE metric: Prior to the Green Grid there was no agreed standard to understand or compare the impact of infrastructure on data center efficiency. PUE is a great example of Peter Drucker’s adage, “What gets measured gets done.” Average reported PUEs have dropped from 2.2 in a 2006 LBNL study to 1.6 in a survey of TGG members in April 2011, a 50% reduction is overhead energy. In fact,  PUE was just adopted by ASHRAE (pending public review) into Std 90.1

The Green Grid Energy Star Project Management Office acts as a good-faith Industry Interface to the EPA for Energy Star Rating on data centers, servers, UPS’s and storage. The work done in the Green Grid has ironed out differences of opinion between industry members and, in my opinion, improved Energy Star by making it a user-relevant measure of efficiency. Several member companies have such confidence in the Green Grid’s work they decline to make individual company responses to the EPA.

Data centers use a lot of water and the Green Grid, again taking the forefront, has developed a water usage effectiveness standard, WUE to standardize the measurement of water usage, its reporting, and to encourage resource efficiency.

The Green Grid produced highly influential “Free Cooling” tools and maps to aid in data center site selection. The Green Grid has been among leading voices is advocating the use of free “outside air” and economizers for efficient cooling of data centers. Both approaches can substantially reduce the energy consumption of data centers compared to conventional reliance on air conditioners and air handlers alone. The maps have been downloaded more than 11,000 times in the last 2 years.

A Roadmap to the Adoption of Server Power Features. Published in 2010, it is one of the most (if not the most) comprehensive analyses available of server power management capability, how it is deployed, industry perception, and barriers to adoption. Strategic in nature, the study not only recommends concrete action today, but suggests future work to enable this fundamental aspect of data center efficiency.

The comprehensive Data Center Maturity Model, which helps data center operators quickly assess opportunities for greater sustainability and efficiency in their data center operations. Released just a year ago, it’s a popular invited talk at international conferences, not only for the results it promises today, but for the five year roadmap it lays out for the industry.

The Green Grid has facilitated international agreements with Japanese and European efficiency orgs, and with folks like ASHRAE, ODCA, and the Green500. Interested how “containers” affect data center efficiency? There’s a Green Grid Container Task Force on that.

But the story doesn’t stop there. Ongoing work will quantify software efficiency and develop Productivity Proxy’s to help measure data center work output in standardized and user-relevant ways. Further chapters of the Data Center Design Guide will]help provide guidance for those building new data centers . There are plans afoot in the Green Grid to develop IT recycling metrics and work is starting to focus on the role data centers can play in a “Smart Grid.”

In all, quite a list of accomplishments. So, if you want to learn more about what the Green Grid has accomplished in the last five years, how its work has contributed value to its member base, or have an interest in shaping the next five years of this exciting industry, please plan to attend the upcoming Green Grid Forum in San Jose, CA, March 6-7, 2012.