Energy Star server rating welcomed

Australian IT industry representatives have applauded the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plans to introduce its first Energy Star rating for servers by the end of the year.

The US EPA will use an initial Tier 1 rating under the Energy Star program, which is also used in Australia, to measure the efficiency of a server's power supply and how much power a server consumes when idle.

Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO, Ian Birks, said it welcomed these kinds of developments. As well as retaining the Energy Star system, the AIIA is working with the energy and effi ciency team of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts to develop a new and complementary set of standards for IT equipment in Australia.

"We are looking wherever possible in Australia to harmonise with global standards that are coming to the fore rather than creating any unique ones," Birks said. "The first cab off the rank [for us] is going to be monitors, shortly followed by PCs and ultimately not far behind will be servers. A lot of the thinking is very much in line with what is happening at the [US] EPA."

Birks said local standards would aim to comply with the Energy Star program.

"What we are trying to do is standardise and have a consistent approach," he said. "We're actually having the conversations now and believe the first rollout will happen in the next few months."

Australian Computer Society (ACS) president, Kumar Parakala, also applauded the US EPA move.

"We believe it is a good start," he said. "What we would like is that this be extended to most products covered in the ICT sector. What we are conscious of is the fact that right now we don't have many mechanisms to look at products and enforce Energy Star ratings."

Locally, server vendors welcomed the announcement but warned it will be difficult to introduce ratings considering the range of designs and usage patterns of servers.

"I think it is certainly an exciting thing that the industry needs and we applaud it but to actually measure it is going to be a difficult thing," HP marketing manager services solutions, Angus Jones, said. "What exactly do you measure?"

While confi rming HP would follow the standard once it was introduced, Jones also pointed to the work of Climate Savers Smart Computing, which has already set specified power saving criteria for servers and other IT products. The organisation was founded by Google and Intel last year and represents several large vendors.

The Energy Star program is designed to make it easier for customers to identify the most energy-efficient products on the market. It already addresses more than 50 kinds of products including desktop PCs, monitors, ceiling fans and even windows, but the rating system for servers has been much harder to develop.

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With ratings for the Energy Star program set by the US EPA accepted as an international standard and followed in Australia, it is likely the new server standard would also be introduced locally, although the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts was unable to confirm this at the time of publication.

The EPA has been gathering input from server makers and other stakeholders for about a year. It quickly determined they would not be able to agree on a way to measure the "useful work" a server can perform with a given amount of power, Energy Star product development team head, Andrew Fanara, said.

"We all knew that in the long run, the most intellectually satisfying approach would be to marry energy consumption with work completed, yet admittedly we are not quite there yet in devising that holistic metric," he said in a recent interview.

The US EPA will meet with stakeholders at Microsoft's Redmond campus this week to try to hash out definitions for a second draft specification.

The US EPA is also working on an Energy Star rating for datacentres. Fanara said it will start to tackle storage equipment in the fourth quarter.

James Niccolai contributed to this article.