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If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. So goes the battle cry of the Green Grid, a global consortium pushing a rating system for use by data centers to measure whether they are meeting energy-efficiency goals.

“We have a fundamental belief that once you start measuring, you end up improving just by creating self-awareness,” said Christian Belady, a product engineer at Microsoft and member of the Green Grid. “At the end of the day, a lot of motivation is coming from the Green Grid, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], the European Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric Company. All of us want to help motivate people to start looking at the efficiency of the data center.”

Various entities, including solution providers, vendors and users, are collaborating on a project to create a rating system with the ultimate goals of lowering costs, improving equipment utilization, measuring actual performance and demonstrating improved performance. The system will give solution providers a framework for talking to customers about their data center environments and IT power consumption.

As an added attraction to customers, organizations that meet the goals set by the rating system could claim distinction as green facilities.

Today, data center managers understand that energy is expensive and that costs are rising quickly. Intelligent Energy-Europe, another group encouraging energy conservation, predicts that energy costs associated with operating servers will exceed the costs of server hardware by 2015.

As costs rise, demand for power is also on the upswing. “The industry has been wrestling energy efficiency for a while from a business perspective, as hardware vendors increase server density and processing power,” said Michael Mallia, chief executive officer of AFCO Systems and a Green Grid member. “In addition, the world is becoming more technology-oriented, particularly toward graphics and video, which eats up tons of processing power.” An average server enclosure five years ago would generate 500 to 1,000 watts of power consumption, while today each cabinet accounts for 15 to 20 kilowatts of power, Mallia said.