Energy Star Hands Out First Ever Certification For a Data Center

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Image of data center via neospire via Flickr CC

Recently Energy Star announced that it would be certifying not just data center equipment but data centers themselves, further encouraging IT companies to be strategic about the architecture, hardware and software of their centers. The first company to get certification was just announced -- NetApp, which scored a 99 out of 100 on EPA's grading scale for Energy Star certification. Importantly, NetApp emphasizes the importance of the building itself in getting data centers to minimize energy consumption. "Improving the energy efficiency of our nation's buildings is critical to protecting our environment," says Jean Lupinacci, chief of the Energy Star Commercial and Industrial Branch. "NetApp is leading the way by earning EPA's Energy Star for its data center."

Netapp states that to earn the Energy Star certification, the company reduced cooling costs by boosting the temperature threshold in the data center to 74°F; cools the data center with "free cooling," which means using only outside air, for 67% of the year; using cold aisle containment, which keeps the temperature of server rooms down; and overhead air distribution, which sucks the rising hot air out of the room to minimize the need for fans.

The company has set the bar high for others working to earn top rankings from Energy Start on data center efficiency. The data center, which opened in 2009, helped shrink NetApp's carbon emissions by 95,000 tons annually.

Data centers are responsible for an estimated 2% of global GHG emissions. While that's a relatively small percentage, it's important to minimize as much as possible. Considering the bulk of a data center's electricity consumption goes toward cooling servers, it is only logical to think intelligently about efficiency infrastructure design so that the energy consumption and therefore carbon footprint of IT is as tiny as possible.

However, the Energy Star certification for data centers is still new, and GreenBiz points out three areas where improvements can be made, including having rating consider the climate in which the data center is located, which impacts a company's strategies for minimizing energy use; Energy Star working with local utilities to create rebates and incentives for data center retrofits; and removing the address requirement from data centers to bolster security for and trust from companies participating in certification. All great suggestions to get more companies vying for high scores from Energy Star.

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