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Is There a Moral Obligation to Be Energy Efficient?

By David Needle (Send Email)
Posted Dec 8, 2006


Several companies, including Intel and AMD, put aside their competitive inclinations to attend a meeting this week at AMD's corporate campus in Sunnyvale Calif. The purpose was to develop strategies to lead to greater energy efficiency in data centers and servers.

The U.S. Department of Energy thinks so, and an unlikely consortium of AMD, Intel, HP, Dell, IBM and others have come together to rally around the cause.

This is easier said than done in a group of often cutthroat competitors, which included AT&T, Dell, Google, HP Labs, Cisco, SGI and Sun Microsystems.

Andy Karsner, the U.S. Department of Energy's assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), said the DOE has a legal obligation to help enhance technology efficiency and make the United States a more competitive nation.

The government also has a "moral obligation," he added, to push tech companies beyond bottom-line considerations and look at the energy security needs of the nation. "High tech is an absolute juggernaut," when it comes to power consumption, said Karsner.

David Rogers, acting deputy assistant secretary of EERE, said attendees identified several different areas of the data center that could be improved, including power delivery and optimization.

"We have to start looking at the data center as a whole system," Rogers told internetnews.com. "For example, the guys ordering the air conditioning don't always know the conditions it will be used in, the peak and idle times. So you end up with more cooling than you need."

Asked what some of the more contentious issues were in the private discussion, several participants said it was how to establish benchmarks for efficiency. But Karsner said something such as the Energy Star program, where equipment is certified by the EPA as meeting certain low power consumption standards, could be helpful in making datacenters more efficient.

"Standards help us all compete better," said Paul Perez, vice president, storage, networks & infrastructure for industry standard servers at HP.

Several of the tech companies in attendance seemed to agree on establishing higher standards to reach at least 90 percent efficiency for power supplies.

Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor and staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, said energy consumption is not a crisis, but that some companies are facing serious constraints. "If your data center is in New York City for example, you have a power and space constraint," he told internetnews.com.

"The fact that customers are screaming means there will be action."

Karsner asked if there was a need for a Web portal that would include information on industry best practices and other strategies. Several in theaudience mentioned The Green Grid, an organization established earlier this year by AMD, HP, Sun, IBM and others, to do just that.

Karsner was unfamiliar with The Green Grid, but several in the audience agreed it would be a good place to start. The organization is still in the process of establishing itself as a non-profit entity. AMD officials said there will be news about new members and other developments in the near future.

Karsner noted that "The federal government is not exclusive, so we would not exclude anyone who doesn't want to be in the Green Grid."

Kris Singh, director of strategic platform technology programs at AMD, said the issue of power consumption is fast becoming a global concern:

"Today, less than a billion people have access to computers. How do we support the next 5 billion?"

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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