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EPA ENERGY STAR® specifications for Servers could impact Specifications for Storage

by Hu Yoshida on Aug 18, 2008

The EPA issued a letter on August 8, 2008 to Computer Server Manufactures or Other Interested Stakeholder, asking for a review of draft 2 of the ENERGY STAR® specification for computer servers. The response is due by September 19, 2008. 

The purpose of this specification is two-fold: “(1) to identify the top performers currently available in the marketplace based on key energy efficiency metrics and (2) to provide end users with more detailed product and performance information so they can make informed purchasing decisions based on consistent manufacturer reporting.” 

The EPA intends to define ENERGY STAR® specifications for servers by the end of this year and then turn their attention to storage. SNIA has established a Green Storage Initiative (GSI) to manage the overall Green Storage program for SNIA including the industry relationships with EPA, The Green Grid, and SPC. There is also a Green Storage (GS) TWG that is primarily focused on the definition of power efficiency metrics to be added to the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® document for Enterprise storage. 

While this draft document is focused on servers, it will be important for storage vendors to review the methodology that is being applied to servers. One of the paragraphs in this letter caught my attention: 

“Power management and virtualization have been removed as potential specification requirements. EPA decided to exclude these criteria given the challenge of writing technology neutral requirements that are also dependent on end user choice and behavior to realize savings. EPA encourages virtualization where it can provide energy efficiency benefits as well as the deployment of power management techniques and features but considers these to be best practices as opposed to specification requirements. However, EPA does believe that full disclosure of these energy saving criteria is important. As such, manufacturers will be required to report power management features and virtualization capabilities as part of the standard information reporting requirements presented in Appendix A, (Required ENERGY STAR ® Qualified Product Information) of the Draft 2 specification.” 

If we follow the same thinking with storage, this may mean that features like MAID, spin down, thin provisioning, de-duplication, copy on write, single instance store, tiered storage, archive and virtualization may not be in the specification, and may only appear in Appendix A. Is this good or bad? A product with a better ENERGY STAR rating may actually provide less energy savings than a product that has a lower rating but can provide more efficient use of storage. That will be one of the issues that the SNIA GS TWG will be addressing. If you have thoughts on this please funnel them into the SNIA GS TWG.

WIKIBON, a storage industry group, has launched a service to help IT companies and their customers to qualify for rebates from utility companies like PG&E for installing energy efficient equipment. These rebates can be based on energy saving technologies like virtualization, thin provisioning, tiered storage, etc; technologies which may not have an ENERGY STAR rating.  

By the way, one of the Appendix A, “Required ENERGY STAR® Qualified Product Information” for this server draft is performance benchmarks. This makes sense since higher performance is often a trade off with higher power consumption. However, this may be a problem for a storage vendor who declines to publish benchmark results. 

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Comments (1)

Dave Vellante on 20 Aug 2008 at 12:02 pm

In our experience, much of the energy savings related to storage comes down to reducing the number of spinning disks required. In a statistically validated field study of customer data across thousands of volumes – (this is real data on the controller which captures allocated vs. written capacity) we found that 75% of the customers studied achieved greater than 50% improvement in disk capacity utilization. Only 3% saw no improvement.

I think you are right…such technologies as this will not likely have an energy star rating.

On the other hand, utilities will be happy with any standards they can use to pay rebates… -Dave from Wikibon

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