Accenture report upholds EPA data-center findings

A report from Accenture that looks at the impact of emerging technologies on reducing power consumption in data centers has largely upheld the findings in a study published last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Some of the more forward-looking projections in the EPA report were based on forecasts and estimates from industry experts and had limited real-world data to back them up.

The Accenture report, a summary of which was released Thursday, used data from 17 case studies carried out over 18 months by some large data centers that tested emerging technologies and practices.

"I am really glad, and quite relieved, that the numbers we came up with are not pie-in-the sky and in fact are fairly achievable," said Andrew Fanara, head of the EPA's Energy Star program, after the Accenture results were released.

Fanara, who headed the team that put together the EPA report, spoke briefly at the end of the Data Center Energy Summit in Santa Clara, California, where the findings from the case studies were presented.

He said he was not aware of any plans by the U.S. government to impose regulations that mandate energy efficiency for data centers, although he said some broader regulations for climate protection may affect big users of electricity.

"I'm not aware of anyone that's contemplating any legislation for data centers," he said.

Most of the data centers that conducted the tests are operated by high-technology companies, which raises questions about whether other data centers will get the same results. But Accenture believes the results broadly confirm the EPA's findings, said Teresa Tung, the senior researcher at Accenture who compiled the report.

The EPA report said data centers accounted for about 1.5 percent of the electricity consumed in the U.S. in 2006, and it said the energy consumed would double over five years based on current trends at the time.

It offered some more optimistic projections if certain best practices and "state of the art" technologies are widely adopted, such as virtualizing servers, turning on power management tools and using variable speed fans. It was those projections that the Accenture report helped to validate.

That doesn't mean there isn't an energy crunch in data centers, only that data centers can take steps to mitigate it.

"We can do all these initiatives, but at the end of the day data centers still consume a lot of energy," Tung said.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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