Spring 2008 [Number 240] Printable version (1,196KB PDF) Download Adobe Reader Please note that this issue of Interface is an archived issue. Therefore, the information contained in each article may no longer be current.
Energy Management at the NIH Data Center: Going Green (and Saving Money)
With the increasing reliance on data processing and information management in the U.S. economy, data centers have taken on a larger role. More businesses are building and maintaining more data centers, placing greater strain on power grids as demand for electricity increases. Under these circumstances, rising energy costs, along with associated environmental concerns, have made energy management an important issue for all businesses but especially for the IT sector.
The EPA energy efficiency report
Servers and data centers make up a significant portion of the nation’s energy consumers, and a substantial share of this consumption is due to federal data centers. Therefore, the government is taking steps to analyze and better manage the electricity use of its data centers. In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a study examining the energy use of data centers in the United States (EPA Report 109-431). It found that:
The EPA’s analysis shows that the energy costs in data centers arise not only from energy-hungry servers, but also from the cooling infrastructure necessary to support IT equipment.
Illustration 1: Data Center Power Draws
Data centers today are forced to redefine capacity from terms of space to terms of cooling and power. While efficient blade servers solve issues of space, they raise issues of cooling (by creating intense hot spots) and even the most power-efficient server can strain the electricity bill due to increased cooling demands (see also Energy Efficient Equipment in the Data Center in this issue).
Compared to 2000, the overall use of energy by U.S. servers and data centers more than doubled in 2006. If efficiency standards remain unchanged, the EPA report projects that national energy use by data centers could double again in the next five years. Combined with climbing energy prices, this means that energy needs will claim ever larger shares of data centers’ budgets, leaving less money for other areas such as expansion, new equipment, or general improvements.
Energy efficiency is a budget mandate as much as it is an environmental issue.
The federal mandate to reduce energy consumption
In an effort to reduce both the environmental impact and energy consumption of federal agencies, federal acquisition regulations (see Executive Order 13423 (PDF)) will soon require that at least 95% of federal electronic product purchases must conform to Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) recommendations (see also the EPEAT website).
Energy consumption and cost at NIH
At NIH, where data processing and information management are vital parts of the larger mission, an examination of energy consumption and cost found that while the bulk of NIH’s energy came from natural gas in 2006 (see illustration 2), electricity accounted for nearly 64 percent of dollars spent on energy costs that year (illustration 3).
NIH mandate to reduce energy consumption
NIH and CIT are seeking to reduce their electricity bill and to become more energy efficient while still providing full IT support. Inspired by Executive Order 13148 “Greening the Government through Leadership in Environmental Management” (December 2005), the EPEAT requirement in federal purchasing, and spurred on by the EPA report, NIH has set a mandate to reduce its energy consumption by a cumulative 20% by the end of fiscal year 2015.
The overarching goal for NIH is to take concrete action on a number of environmental aspects related to its functions (find details of the NIH Environmental Management System’s plan at http://www.nems.nih.gov/records/NIH_Goals.pdf). In doing its part, the NIH Data Center will focus on energy consumption as the issue that most directly affects its own operations.
NIH Data Center goals for 2008
In order to comply with federal energy efficiency mandates and pursue a successful energy management strategy, the NIH Data Center has developed the following goals for 2008:
Improve Power Management
Reduce Power Consumption by 2%
Consolidate Tape Silos
Links to more information
The Federal Energy Management Program site promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy resources at federal agencies and sites. The U.S. Department of Energy offers advice on best practices for energy management in industry as well as advice specifically for data centers seeking to reduce their energy consumption. The EPA champions a Combined Heat and Power solution (cogeneration) at http://www.epa.gov/chp/.
|Published by Center for Information Technology, National Institutes of Health|
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