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UEL expert plays key role in EU vote on energy efficiency

New measures could significantly reduce Europe's energy consumption 

Dr Rabih Bashroush, Reader in Distributed Systems and Director of the Enterprise Computing Research Lab at the University of East London (UEL), played a key role in a recent European Union (EU) Regulatory Committee vote to implement ecodesign requirements for computer servers and online data storage products.

Dr Bashroush’s research and advocacy led to the inclusion, in a new directive, of measures to ensure that computer servers use less energy when in an idle state. 

Dr Bashroush said, “Our research under the European Union-funded EURECA (EU Resource Efficiency Coordination Action) Project examining the energy efficiency of data centres across Europe provided the policy team with solid data demonstrating that IT servers in Europe remain idle for about 80 per cent of the time, making the introduction of energy caps the right thing to do.

“This vote means that, finally, we’re addressing IT equipment such as servers and storage devices, instead of just the usual pressure on other data centre infrastructure elements such as power and cooling.”

 Dr Bashroush provided the committee with detailed research on the energy consumption of data centres. He also supported a campaign to secure support from senior industry leaders and policymakers. 

The EU Regulatory Committee voted on the new regulations on 17 September. The measure will now be reviewed by members of the European Parliament and Council before final adoption by the EU Commission. 

Current practices around the procurement and running of IT infrastructure, such as computer servers and data storage devices, result in a lot of money spent on energy, cooling and other ambient control systems needed for the IT equipment to function appropriately. 

Specialists in the field have pointed out that current IT infrastructure needs to become more energy-efficient in order to reduce the negative impact on the environment and afford better financial savings for businesses and the public sector. 

Dr Bashroush’s research has found that, on average, servers in data centres are utilised between 15 per cent and 25 per cent of the time. This means servers are often idle, doing no useful work, around 80 per cent of the time. 

Dr Bashroush said, “We calculated that out of the 130 terawatt hours consumed by data centres in Europe, 46 terawatt hours could be attributed to idle state, which is a significant waste of valuable energy and money.”

The EU directive also requires equipment manufacturers to provide information about the equipment operating conditions, such as humidity and temperature requirements for IT infrastructure, to help data centres better optimise their operational environment. 

There will also be a renewed focus on durability, meaning the design and manufacture of future IT equipment and components will need to meet higher standards which make repairing and upgrading easier, sustainable and cost-effective. 

The directive states that the effect of the eco-design requirements set out could result in approximately nine terawatt hours saved by 2030 - the yearly electricity consumption of Estonia in 2014.  

Dr Bashroush was also interviewed by leading trade magazine Computer Weekly about the vote.