A critical element of the Data Center Energy Efficiency landscape is the role of government regulations and standards in establishing efficiency goals for servers and data centers. Intel has been an active participant in working with the Environmental Protection Agency on it’s ENERGY STAR program for Servers and Data Centers.
On our last day here at IDF in session ECOS004, Henry L. Wong, a Senior Power Technologist at Intel, reviewed the world wide landscape of energy regulatory requirements and provided insight on how to comply and what is next. For servers, an ENERGY STAR program has been in place since 2009. The ENERGY STAR requirement sets goals for system idle power and power supply efficiency based on the Climate Savers Computing Initiative Standards.
Henry makes an effective argument that idle power is a less than ideal metric for server energy efficiency. For instance, a server with twice the performance and the same idle and active power should be considered twice as efficient (it will get twice the computation done for the same energy). However, a metric purely based on idle would not recognize this efficiency improvment.
Henry reviewed efforts underway with SPEC and the EPA to develop a Server Energy Efficiency Rating Tool (SERT), which measures both platform power consumption and computational efficiency. The tool is based on learning from SPECPower_ssj2008 and it has industry support from The Green Grid, CSCI, and other groups.
When available, the SERT tool will be a huge advance for measuring server energy efficiency. Performance gains that are achievable in the computing industry are in many ways unique at improving productivity and efficiency in consumer and industrial activities. Increasing energy efficiency which provides more output (compute performance) for energy consumed is generally recognized as key solution to environmental and economic issues regulatory bodies face today.
Since servers are industrial machines purchased to do computational work, it's refreshing to see that “work output” may finally be reflected in official metrics that value efficiency.