The Green Grid Goes More International and More Practical by Peter Judge
March is a good time for efficient data center activists. It’s the month when the Green Grid holds its annual members’ meeting, and we get a burst of useful material, advising how to use energy better. .
This year, the package has a lot of interesting stuff, and looks to make the movement more international, as well as giving some more practical focus.
The Grid’s release calls out highlights, which include material from Japan and Europe, as well as updates to data center tools.
Japan has been the centre of lots of activity, since last year’s earthquake shook the country’s reliance on nuclear power, and led to specific requirements to use less electricity. Changes are being made quickly, and the Grid has come out with a package of case studies emerging from that crisis.
Europe has been a focus for energy policy discussion. It’s a diverse region, with multiple sources of power and a political organisation teetering on the fence between further federalisation or splintering. Given the spread of different energy policies across the region, a study of their impact on data centers has to be timely.
On the practical side, the Green Grid now has a course in power management, which should help spread skills in the field.
The headline-grabbing publication is the set of maps which show where free cooling is now possible, under the new ASHRAE rules for allowable temperature in data center buildings. The headlines boil it down to a compelling factoid: “New ASHRAE classes enable 100% free cooling almost anywhere.”
The reality will turn out to be more complex. For one thing, the new clases are only as good as the support they get from server manufacturers, and so far not many vendors are following Dell’s lead from last year, in certifying server hardware to meet the new guidelines.
For another thing, the possibility of 100 percent free cooling in a given location is not the same as the certainty of it. If your location has occasional warm seasons, you will have to plan for it. Have downtime or reduce capacity while your equipment swelters - or else, for build in the hated energy-guzzling chillers that free cooling is supposed to save you from. You may not be planning to use them, but if you have to have them there for back-up, that will affect the capex of your data center.
There is plenty of other material - in particular a full set of Powerpoints which will be worth digging into. But the other significant publication is the Grid’s update to its Data Center Maturity Model.
There is now a tool that should make it possible to measure and compare your data center’s efficiency online. This has been up since January, but it will still have rough edges - the whole idea suffers from the necessity to distill a complex set of criteria into one easily graspable set of metrics, visible as a graphic, in some ways repeating the arguments over the Green Grid’s PUE measurement.
Given this limitation, the success of the Model, will be in whether it gets used - and how.