Green Servers: Stars & Sales

The EPA’s Energy Star program will help the environmentally conscious, but isn’t likely to change major buying patterns anytime soon.

By Mary K Pratt
Features Dec 11th 2009

Servers can now earn the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star label in recognition of their green qualities, but most observers aren’t expecting this program to cause substantial changes in how enterprises buy servers anytime soon.

The Energy Star server certification went into effect in May, 2009 and has earned the EPA kudos from manufacturers and users for promoting energy efficiency in an area that’s notorious for its high electricity needs.

“This is a great first step. It’s been important for some time, given the power issues of the datacenter, to give transparency on the energy use of servers,” says Subodh Bapat, VP and distinguished engineer in the sustainability office at Sun Microsystems.

But the Energy Star label doesn’t tell the full story on servers and their energy consumption. The current specifications measure energy use only under limited circumstances and for specific types of machines. Blade servers, so popular in enterprise datacenters, don’t qualify, for example. Energy Star specifications vary depending on a number of factors, such as configuration and server size, and certification requires that a server, when idle, cannot exceed certain energy consumption standards for its classification.

What all this means is that while an Energy Star label presumably will help users identify energy-efficient servers, anyone who wants to know more exact figures on their servers’ electricity bills will still need to do their own testing and due diligence.