PUE: The New Marketing Buzzword in Data Center Design

By: Drew Hamilton, Mechanical Group

Integrated Design Group hosted a roundtable discussion on PUE this morning. Power Utilization Effectiveness or “PUE” is a term, which was developed by The Green Grid to measure data center infrastructure efficiency. In its simplest terms, PUE is total facility power divided by IT equipment power. The closer a measure of PUE is to 1.0, the more energy efficient the data center is. As a data center design firm focused on green innovation, ID has designed projects with PUEs in the 1.3 range. This is quite efficient as research from the Uptime Institute indicates that the average PUE in 2011 for data centers was 1.8. Although the math seems straightforward, PUE has become a marketing tool and companies have found “creative” ways to calculate it.

Take the new term, “pPUE”, for example. By adding a small p in front of the acronym, some companies have generated a new measurement– partial PUE. pPUE captures the efficiency of only a portion of a data center and it does not take all losses into consideration. The small p has allowed companies to tout measurements below 1.3. But this does not represent the entire energy use.

At this morning’s session we discussed ways–other than using a small p– that companies can lower their PUE. Many of our suggestions are seen in designs being used by the Internet superstars (eBay, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) Green design directions include using airside economizers and expanding operating conditions to the ASHRAE allowable temperature and humidity ranges. We also how discussed how getting the IT and Facilities teams to work together (a la eBay) can have an impact on lowering PUE!

We will pick up our PUE conversation in September, when we resume for another season of roundtable discussions in Boston and Tysons Corner/Washington, DC. Check the Events section of our web site for details.

2 thoughts on “PUE: The New Marketing Buzzword in Data Center Design

  1. Yes indeed, Drew. “PUE” has been used and abused in so many ways. The most frequent offense, I believe, is the comparison of PUE values from one facility to another. This is a blatant misuse of the metric, and the “My PUE is better than you PUE” are moot arguments.

    One can go far into the weeds with ruminations about misuse of PUE. One application of the metric that I’ve always raised an eyebrow to, is the specification of PUE in the design phase. I’m not quite sure what this means. Yes, I can see setting a PUE target, but a true PUE measurement requires operational time under the belt to account for seasonal impacts and business variations.

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