Data Centres: What’s In A Green Label?

Energy efficient data centres are complex. But the information about them needs to be as simple to read as food labels, says Peter Judge

The Green Grid’s Maturity Model is designed to give users a  view of how sustainable their data centre is. But when it appeared, eWEEK Europe thought the model looked a bit uncooked.

We’ve now had a full briefing from the Model’s creator, Harkeeret Singh, and a look through the Grid’s improved White Paper on the subject. The labelling scheme looks more well prepared now, and could be ready for use.

But, if the model is ready for consumption, is it worth pursuing the food analogy? Is the model’s label similar to the food labels put on by supermarkets?

One problem is that the model is designed for a lot of uses. It is supposed to be be applied to old and new data centres, in-house facilities and co-los, highly-reliable sites and best-efforts outfits. It’s going to be picked up by people on different data centre diets.

And it also contains a lot of ingredients – including energy, cooling, recycling, lighting, networks, storage and many more.

Play with this model

Singh doesn’t like the comparision with food labels much – a data centre is not a sandwich, he says.

Organisations certainly don’t have high level meetings determining strategic goals for sandwiches, investing millions in filling them, and committing to certain strategic ways to produce and use sandwiches.

This label isn’t about choosing and consuming, it’s about setting goals, and it’s possible to take it and play with it.

Grade your own progress, set some targets, and then share your experiences. But don’t use it to compare – even if you do generate the kind of “graphic equaliser” view of your data centre (below) which the Green Grid promises.

These graphics seemed too simple to us, at first, and we couldn’t see how they would be generated.  The Green Grid still doesn’t have a “tool” as such to make one, as the link on its site labeled “Tool”, simply goes to a large PDF of the model, expressed as a spreadsheet.

Click through for the full PDF at the Green Grid's site

But even if this isn’t a tool as such, since we’ve had our chat with Harqs we can see that you could actually make a graphic equaliser image using it.

Download the PDF, print it out, and get out your highlighter pens.

In each row of the diagram you can set your goals with yellow, and measure your progress with green.

Colour it in, turn it by 90 degrees, and, hey presto! You have a hand-drawn DCMM graphic equaliser.

This may be a flippant suggestion, but if what you want a label to put on your wall, that’s one way to do it.

But of course, as Singh points out, that’s not the purpose of this. The idea is to consider the different metrics along which you can measure your sustainability, and then see how you can set your goals for the future.

And it might be that playing with pens gets you and your team further into the issues.

A data centre is not a sandwich

Boiling things down to a simple graphic is always dangerous. There have been sustained battles around food labelling in supermarkets which centre on exactly the same problem – by making the labels simple, information is lost, while more complex labels would not be understood.

However, information about data centres must, unfortunately be distilled into displays which can be absorbed at a high level, in about as much time as it might take to read a sandwich label. That may be all the time a top executive has on the subject.

Hopefully, the label then unpacks so the exec and his team can go further into detail and digest the information.

BrightTalk’s Green Week is coming up. To find out more about about Data Centre Efficiency metrics, register to listen to this this webinar, with representatives from The 451 Group, The Green grid, Uptime Institute, CNet Training and the EU Commission, at 1pm on 20 April.