A few weeks ago a well known IT Research firm criticized the Green Grid for not being green enough -- implying that the California consortium has failed to realize its goals. The two complaints leveled that there has been poor end-user outreach and most interestingly that the scope of the Green Grid does not cover eco-friendly activities such as reducing carbon emissions and computer recycling. Since the report, representatives of the Green Grid have announced that efforts are being made to increase end-user involvement, but the concern over the lack of environmental action-items has been left largely untouched.
And this is okay. The problem faced by the Green Grid, that the entire information technology (IT) industry is facing, is that in the hurried rush to "go green" and be "energy efficient," the usage of these phrases has become interchangeable. Being green means that you are doing your best to be environmentally friendly -- using clean, renewable energy, recycling, and doing business with as little negative environmental impact as possible. Energy efficiency simply means that the most amount of useful work is being accomplished given a nominal amount of energy. There is no stipulation where that energy comes from, whether it is generated in the fires of a coal plant or by the slow rotation of windmill farms. The ideas of "going green" and creating an energy efficient data center are not necessarily the same thing or accomplished with the same methods, and treating them as one and the same can result in an narrow view of the problem and hence the solution.
So let's not throw stones at the Green Grid for not expanding their charter to include eco-friendly action items, there is plenty to call them out on with regards to why they have only published one white paper, or why they don't have suggestions for quantifying useful work. Instead, let the Green Grid consortium exist in its space of encouraging energy efficiency and grow their scope at their own pace (if that is what they desire to do). The ideas of greening and energy efficiency allow for more than one guiding organization and metric: in fact, like many solutions in computing, perhaps a modular/tiered approach to the situation is the best one.
This why I propose the GREEEN approach. GREEEN stands for "Green Results with Environmental and Energy Efficient acroNyms." Instead of looking to one metric to solve all that ails a company's environmental concerns and energy resource problems, look at all them in an organized fashion, for example:
Taking the umbrella approach, we have the Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council at the top. The LEED certification encompasses many of the eco-friendly actions that the Green Grid was accused of not taking such as renewable energy resources, and not just for the data center but for the entire structure that the data center may be housed in. Next is the Power Usage Effective (PUE), Data Center Efficiency, and Data Center Performance Efficiency (DCPE) metrics from the Green Grid. These metrics attempt to measure the energy efficiency of the data center itself, without taking into account the environmental friendliness that the LEED certification covered. Next comes the EnergyStar certification for servers (and hopefully other data center equipment eventually) which provides a seal of approval that a given piece of data center equipment has been certified by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be energy efficient. Finally, at the bottom, are metrics that Sun's Space, Watts, and Performance (SWaP) metric which can help gauge the energy efficiency and effectiveness of a server.
The Green Grid's own metrics play a small part in the grand scheme of GREEEN, and again, that is alright. There are many other metrics that could and should be used to help realize environmental friendliness and energy efficient designs, why not use them too? The secret is knowing how the metrics fit together and how to use them properly in conjunction with each other. I am not even trying to suggest that GREEEN is the correct way to go, just that the industry needs something like it -- a single guiding principal that IT administrators can use to better understand where environmental action items are applicable, energy efficient designs and devices are needed, or both.
posted by: Andrew Kutz