Purchasing Energy-Efficient Enterprise Servers

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An Uptime Institute survey suggests that close to 30% of servers are unused in data centers, providing no business value. Each one costs more than $4,000 per year in energy, space, and maintenance costs. To save energy and important business resources, create and regularly update a server hardware and application inventory to track the number of applications running on each server, and identify unused servers or servers with low utilization. These servers can then be consolidated, with some servers eventually turned off or reassigned.

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for enterprise servers, a product category covered by ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR-qualified products or FEMP-designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP's acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements for enterprise servers are technology neutral, meaning that one technology is not favored over another. However, ENERGY STAR's product specification requirements are limited to blade, multi-node, rack-mounted, and pedestal form factor enterprise servers with no more than four processor sockets. Fully fault tolerant servers, server appliances, high performance computing systems, large servers, storage products (including blade storage), network equipment, and products covered under other ENERGY STAR product specifications are excluded.

This acquisition guidance was updated in January 2017.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides enterprise server efficiency levels and product specification information on its ENERGY STAR website. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Get a list of ENERGY STAR-certified enterprise servers.

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save $139 by Buying Energy Star

FEMP has calculated that the required ENERGY STAR-qualified enterprise servers save money if priced no more than $139 above the less efficient model. As of December 2016, there are no models in this product category that exceed the ENERGY STAR efficiency levels. Table 1 compares two types of product purchases and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective.

Table 1. Lifetime Savings for Efficient Enterprise Server Models
PerformanceBest AvailableENERGY STARLess Efficient
Average Power Draw (W)======154201
Annual Energy Use (kWh)======1,3491,761
Annual Energy Cost======$121$158
Lifetime Energy Cost======$455$594
Lifetime Cost Savings======$139======
View the Performance and Model Assumptions for Table 1
Performance Column

Average Power Draw: Based on ENERGY STAR values and an average utilization level of 11%, for an internal data center of any size in 2016, shown in watts. The average utilization level is from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's June 2016 report, United States Data Center Energy Usage (LBNL-1005775).

Annual Energy Use: Based server operation for 8,760 hours/year, listed in kilowatt-hours.

Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.09/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities throughout the United States. Learn more about Federal Government Energy/Water Use and Emissions.

Lifetime Energy Cost: Calculated as the sum of the discounted value of the annual energy cost over the assumed product life of 4 years—from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's June 2016 report, United States Data Center Energy Usage (LBNL-1005775) and Bio by Deloitte and Fraunhofer IZM's July 2015 report, Preparatory Study for Implementing Measures of the Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC DG ENTR Lot 9 - Enterprise Servers and Data Equipment - Task 3: User. Future electricity price trends and a 3% discount rate are from Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis - 2016: Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 and NBS Special Publication 709 (NISTIR 85-3273-31).

Lifetime Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of the ENERGY STAR model or best available model.

Best Available Model Column

As of December 2016, no models in this product category exceeded the ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.

Energy Star Model Column

Calculated based on October 2016 ENERGY STAR efficiency levels. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.

Less Efficient Model Column

Calculated based on typical products used in non-federal applications.

Determine When ENERGY STAR Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements (e.g., the best available model).

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through DOD EMALL. Products sold through DLA are codified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Enterprise Server Schedules and Product Codes

GSA offers enterprise servers through Schedule 70 (General Purpose Commercial Information Technology Equipment, Software, and Services).

As of December 2016, DLA does not offer an ENAC for enterprise servers.

The UNSPSC for enterprise servers is 43211501.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

Server energy efficiency improves significantly from generation to generation. The latest servers deliver much higher performance per watt than 3- to 4-year-old servers. Establish server refresh policies that take into account increases in generation-on-generation energy efficiency and power manageability improvements. Refreshing servers is also a good opportunity to consider consolidation, as new servers usually have much more capacity than the servers they replace. The savings in energy and software costs can sometimes justify a faster refresh than expected.

Purchasing high-temperature-tolerant servers can also save energy by reducing cooling needs.

Enterprise servers are generally used in data closets or data centers. Agencies should consult the Center of Expertise for Energy Efficiency in Data Centers website for information on energy-efficient design strategies and opportunities. DOE has partnered with key public and private stakeholders to provide technical information, tools, best practices, and analysis that assist government agencies with reducing energy use in data centers. Purchasing efficient products for use in data centers can be an important component to meeting data center energy reduction goals.

For ENERGY STAR-qualified servers, manufacturers are encouraged to provide a hyperlink to a detailed power calculator on their websites. Purchasers can use the power calculator to understand power and performance data for a specific server model or model family. Full power load and idle power draw for these server models can also be found on Energy Star's Qualified Products list.

Some utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR-qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives.

User Tips: Use Products More Efficiently

When used and handled properly, energy-efficient enterprise servers provide years of safe and effective service. Federal users should be aware of the following user tips.

Servers that comply with the ENERGY STAR program requirements offer processor power management that is enabled by default in the BIOS and/or through a management controller, service processor, and/or the operating system shipped with the enterprise server. Whenever possible, the default power management setting should remain in place, which helps reduce power consumption at times of low utilization. The "available power saving features" versus "enabled power features" when the products are shipped are listed in Energy Star's Qualified Products list.

ENERGY STAR-qualified servers collect data on input power, processor utilization, and inlet air temperature, and users can access these data via one of the following methods: 1) for products with a pre-installed OS, the OS includes all necessary drivers and software for data access; 2) for products without a pre-installed OS, documentation on how to access data is provided on the manufacturer's website, or via electronic or printed documentation shipped with the enterprise server. The collected data can inform users how to optimize operation of servers by observing the correlation between processor utilization and input power. Inlet air temperature data can inform the operation set point of cooling equipment in order to achieve higher energy efficiency in the server space.

Optimize Server Utilization and Turn Off Unused Server

An Uptime Institute survey suggests that close to 30% of servers are unused in data centers, with each one costing more than $4,000 per year in energy, space, and maintenance costs, without adding business value. To save energy and important business resources, create and regularly update a server hardware and application inventory to track the number of applications running on each server, and identify unused servers or servers with low utilization. These servers can then be consolidated, with some servers eventually turned off or reassigned.

Consolidate and Virtualize Applications

Consolidating multiple applications on a smaller number of servers accomplishes the same amount of computational work, but lower energy consumption per application. Virtualization is a proven method for consolidating applications, allowing multiple applications to run in their own environments on shared servers. Increasing server utilization reduces both the number of servers required to run a given number of applications and overall server energy use.

Examine Power Backup Requirements

Redundant equipment in the power delivery chain increases capital cost and consumes additional energy, as power conversions create heat that must then be removed. Not all information technology equipment needs backup power. For example, some applications fail-over to other IT equipment, so dual individual power supplies may not be required. Backup requirements should be determined on a case-by-case basis to avoid costly redundant equipment that consumes additional energy.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.