Regulators’ fixation with idle power is threatening data centre sustainability, warns Green Grid


As cloud adoption rates skyrocket and data centre operations become increasingly virtualised, data centre efficiency measurement tools and metrics are more important than ever. Roger Tipley, President and Chairman at The Green Grid, has warned that, with server selections now based on configuration matches, workload performance and capacity requirements, the outdated idle power metric must be replaced with more accurate measurements of data centre energy consumption to ensure optimal performance and sustainability.

Tipley commented: “In order to drive data centre efficiency and ensure long term sustainability, data centres must have appropriate metrics in place. Regulators in both the US and Europe are often fixated with idle power. As a metric, idle power is narrow and circumscribed, looking primarily at individual power supplies without consideration of workload capacity and speed. As a result of this, idle power doesn’t provide a good measure of server energy efficiency.

“Historically, idle power has been the predominant tool of measurement. Although idle power is an easy metric to deploy, as it provides an accurate measurement of electrical energy use when a server has no user applications running, it cannot measure the relationship between performance and power, since a data centre is almost never idle, and cloud data centres are designed to have some of the highest utilisation rates. Active efficiency, measured by workload delivered per unit of energy consumed, is generally accepted as the most accurate metric for monitoring server energy efficiency.

“Active efficiency takes into account workload cycles that sometimes, rightfully render a server idle, providing a holistic perspective on the relationship between server performance and power use. Vitally, the metric recognises that most high-performance servers have higher power demand with proportionally better performance as compared to lower power, lower performance servers.”

Tipley concluded: “The global carbon footprint of data centres already exceeds that of the aviation industry, and despite the fact that IT and data centres help us avoid large carbon footprints in industrial and consumer sectors, energy use in global data centres is likely to continue to rise, although carbon footprint need not. We are therefore encouraging all members of The Green Grid, and the wider data centre community, to develop and adopt active efficiency metrics as the most effective way to assess and review server efficiency. This is a crucial step in improving data centre sustainability, as it is only with a truly comprehensive view of energy consumption that data centre managers can begin to control their energy consumption and carbon footprint.”


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