Google Leads Charge against Data Center Standard

by | Apr 14, 2010

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GoogleDataCenterPUEGoogle, Microsoft, Nokia, and Amazon, among others, are charging that new efficiency requirements proposed by a standards group are “too prescriptive” and prohibits innovation in the development of future cooling methods, reports PC World.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recently proposed the amendments (PDF) to its efficiency standard for buildings, ASHRAE Standard 90.1.

The primary issue is that the new amendments specify which types of cooling methods must be used instead of letting the data center owners make the decision to meet their energy-efficiency goals, according to a Google blog.

Requirements for economizers, for example, which Google said many companies use, don’t guarantee an efficient system and they may not always be the best choice for cooling.

Executives from Microsoft, Nokia, Amazon, Dupont Fabros Technology and Digital Realty Trust co-signed the Google blog.

Not only will the new standard impact large companies like Google, it will also impact startups and smaller companies that will have the most difficult time offsetting the costs of mandated cooling equipment, particularly when cheaper options could be available in the future, reports Venturebeat blog.

Another issue is how the standard will be interpreted by local building officials, who may not be as knowledgeable about alternate compliance methods, reports Data Center Knowledge.

Instead, the group calls for an overall data center-level cooling system efficiency standard that supports data center innovation, and sets an aggressive target for the maximum amount of energy used by a data center for overhead functions like cooling.

Data center industry leaders have already agreed that power usage effectiveness (PUE) is the preferred metric (PDF) for measuring data center efficiency, and the EPA Energy Star Program already uses this method for data centers, said Google.

The Green Grid consortium, together with several global government and industry organizations including the EPA, recently agreed on guiding principles for globally accepted data center energy-efficiency metrics using the PUE rating.

In response, ASHRAE said the proposed changes would not force data-center builders to use fresh air cooling, and allows companies to use other approaches, reports Data Center Knowledge.

In an e-mail statement to Data Center Knowledge, ASHRAE said the addendum includes eight exceptions to requirements for the use of economizers in data centers. “The addendum does not change the portion of the standard that already allows, through the Energy Cost Budget method (an alternate method of compliance), for data centers to be designed without economizers if other energy saving methodologies, including power usage effectiveness (PUE), are employed.”

Chris Malone, a Thermal Technologies Architect at Google, said in the article that data center operators welcome the focus on efficiency, but want the flexibility to innovate and develop new approaches to cooling. He said Google uses economizers extensively but noted that the emergence of fresh air cooling indicates the speed at which best practices can change.

Public comment on the proposed changes is open until April 19.

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