There’s No Need to Wait to Start Metering … And Don’t Let Cost Scare You

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Common misconceptions aside, metering your data center to comply with upcoming federal legislation will be easily affordable in most cases.

As for the state of that legislation, the good news is that back in March the U.S. House of Representatives, in an uncommon display of bipartisanship, voted by an overwhelming margin of 375 to 36 to pass the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014.

The disappointing news is that the Senate has taken no official action on the bill since then. And we are smack in the middle of election season, which historically has not been known as a catalyst for legislative action.

Just because Congress moves no faster than the wheels of justice, however, doesn’t mean that government data center managers need to wait to start implementing one key element of this very likely to pass legislation: metering their energy consumption.

And this item will be on quite a few to-do lists, too, as it’s estimated that three-quarters of government data centers have no metering infrastructure in place. While many of these facilities are of the 500-to-1,000 square-foot variety, and may have only one or two electrical panels, their operators are far more familiar with servers and PCs than they are electrical metering equipment.

A little background: Ever since the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative was launched in 2010, agencies have scrambled to establish accurate rating systems, with the industry preferred metric being Power Usage Effectiveness. These efforts have been a mixed bag, however, as PUE is often miscalculated or misrepresented.

The legislation awaiting Senate action will require agencies to report a more accurate representation of their PUE every year to the Office of Management and Budget. For standalone data centers, this task will be supported by Advanced Metering Infrastructure already in place at the building level as a result of a prior mandate.

As for those unmetered data centers, the legislation outlines requirements for basic, intermediate and advanced PUE applications, with basic being the one most likely to be mandated by the legislation. (The Green Grid has an excellent explanation of the three tiers in a white paper on PUE (See pages 14-23).

In a basic PUE application, you have two options. First is the good ol’ SneakerNet, where someone collects the data monthly from a meter serving the facility and from the output of the uninterruptible power supply (UPS). The better option is to automate data collection via a network connection to the meter that’s measuring incoming energy; plus, worst case, a second meter collecting the data from the output of the UPS(s). If the customer has a UPS with a network management card the second meter may not even be needed.

As for cost, meters today typically run in the $1,500 to $2,500 range (see p. 40).

That’s affordable enough that you may as well act before the Senate does. And who knows? Maybe the Senate will vote on a few easy ones before Election Day just so they can boast about something on the stump. Stranger things have happened.


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