Computer Science
Green Information and Communications Technology Strategies


Computer Science
Green Information and Communications Technology Strategies

Unit 4: Procurement and Management Support

Seminar: Energy Star Program and Quality Management

Quality management is put in place to ensure that sustainability is considered as part of performance in the design, development, and implementation of ICT products and services. Quality improvement looks to change a process to improve the reliability of achieving an outcome. Quality control is carried out to maintain the reliability of achieving an outcome. Quality assurance is used to provide enough confidence that the organization is meeting the set requirements for quality. In the next and final section, we will look at compliance audit, which verifies the success of application of quality management.

Quality is a very abstract concept. To make it more concrete, we will discuss the issue of measuring and improving the energy efficiency of desktop computers, servers, and data centre equipment. The most widely recognized standards for ICT energy efficiency are found in the US EPA’s Energy Star Program.

Quality Standards

Two commonly cited quality standards are

  1. ISO 9004: 2009 A quality management approach for the sustained success of an organization, and
  2. ISO 1550-4:2005 Information technology – Process assessment, Part 4: Guidance on use for process improvement and process capability determination.

Quality improvement requires a change to organizational culture. The kaizen approach attempts to work within existing cultural boundaries by making small improvements. This approach is best known in its implementation in the Toyota Production System. With this system, staff are encouraged to stop the production line when they detect a problem and come up with improvements with their supervisor. This technique applies to many sustainability issues in organizations, where small incremental improvements to processes can reduce energy and materials use.

ISO and SEI Quality Standards

The ISO quality management system (QMS) standards were released in the late 1980s. These standards were revised in 2000 as the ISO 9000: 2000 series. ISO 9004: 2009 gives guidelines for performance improvement and provides a measurement framework for improved quality management.

Quality standards are developed to certify the processes of an organization—not a product or service itself. ISO 9000 is often erroneously cited as certifying the quality of a company product.

Quality management is addressed in ISO 12207 and ISO 15288 (processes) and ISO 15504 (assessment and improvement).

The Software Engineering Institute initiated the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model—Integrated), which predates the ISO system and has wide support in the ICT industry.

US EPA’s Energy Star Program

The US government mandated the implementation of Energy Star V4 program in July 2007 under the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). Version 5.0 of the Energy Star Specification for Computers took effect in the USA on July 1, 2009. The specification covers desktop PCs, notebooks, and thin clients. The latest revision of the standard, Energy Star Program Requirements for Computers, Version 6.0 (2013) is currently being reviewed. There are also specifications for enterprise servers and tools for evaluating the efficiency of data centres. Data on energy use and operating characteristics of existing data centres is currently being collected.

The Energy Star Program assumes that manufacturers will self-certify their equipment. EPA may also conduct tests on sample products. Manufacturers are expected to physically label qualified computers or (optionally) electronically label equipment (such as on an LCD screen when it powers up), label product packaging, and indicate Energy Star status on the manufacturer’s website. The EPA also requires annual unit shipment data for determining the market penetration of Energy Star products.


Energy Star defines different power and efficiency limits to different categories of computers. Also, it rates some components of computers separately. Therefore, the definition of types of computers and components are important to the specification:

Computer: A device which performs logical operations and processes data. Computers are composed of, at a minimum: 1) a central processing unit (CPU) to perform operations; 2) user input devices such as a keyboard, mouse, digitizer, or game controller; and 3) a computer display screen to output information.

Component Definitions
  • Computer display: A display screen and its associated electronics encased in a single housing or within the computer housing (e.g., notebook or integrated desktop computer).
  • Discrete graphics processing unit (GPU): A graphics processor with a local memory controller interface and a local, graphics-specific memory.
  • External power supply: A component contained in a separate physical enclosure external to the computer casing and designed to convert line voltage AC input from the mains to lower DC voltage(s).
  • Internal power supply: A component internal to the computer casing and designed to convert AC voltage from the mains to DC voltage(s).
  • Desktop computer: A computer for which the main unit is intended to be located in a permanent location.
  • Small-scale server: A computer that typically uses desktop components in a desktop form factor, but is designed primarily to be a storage host for other computers.
  • Game console: A stand-alone, computer-like device whose primary use is to play video games.
  • Integrated desktop computer: A desktop system in which the computer and computer display function as a single unit that receives its AC power through a single cable.
  • Thin client: An independently-powered computer that relies on a connection to remote computing resources to obtain primary functionality.
  • Notebook computer: A computer designed specifically for portability and to be operated for extended periods of time either with or without a direct connection to an AC power source.
  • Workstation: A high-performance, single-user computer typically used for graphics, CAD, software development, financial and scientific applications among other computing-intensive tasks.
Operational Modes

The Energy Star specification sets different power consumption levels for different modes of operation of computers. Earlier versions of the specification only measured power consumption when the computers were not carrying out useful work. The new version introduces power consumption measures when the computer is in use, as well as a typical energy consumption (TEC) that estimates the typical electricity consumed by a product in normal operation (annual).

  • Off mode: The power consumption level in the lowest power mode that cannot be switched off (influenced) by the user.
  • Sleep mode: A low power state that the computer is capable of entering automatically after a period of inactivity or by manual selection. Sleep mode most commonly correlates to ACPI System Level S3 (suspend to RAM) state.
  • Idle state: The state in which the operating system and other software have completed loading, a user profile has been created, the machine is not asleep, and activity is limited to basic applications that the system starts by default.
  • Active state: The state in which the computer is carrying out useful work.

To meet Energy Star specifications, internal power supplies for computers must be at least 85% efficient at 50% of rated output, and 82% efficient at 20% of rated output. Note: As a result, similar to data centre provisioning, purchasing computers with excess electrical capacity will reduce efficiency.

The allowable total energy consumption for a year for a desktop computer ranges from 148 to 234 kWh, depending on the category; notebooks range from 40 to 88.5 kWh. These ranges are adjusted for memory, graphics, and storage. As such, specifying a higher performance computer than needed could result in higher energy use while still meeting the Energy Star requirements.

Energy Star Program for Computer Servers

The Energy Star specification for computer servers defines a computer server as “A computer that provides services and manages networked resources for client devices (e.g., desktop computers, notebook computers, thin clients, wireless devices, PDAs, IP telephones, other computer servers, or other network devices).” It defines different computer server types, including blade servers and high availability servers, as well as other data centre equipment, including network equipment and storage equipment.

As with the desktop specification, it emphasizes the efficiency of power supplies for computer servers. But it defines only one operational state for servers: idle. Unlike desktop equipment, which may be left on doing no useful work and so may switch to a low power state, it is generally assumed that servers will be constantly busy (or at least need to be ready on short notice).

The specification uses the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) SPECpower_ssj2008 benchmark for evaluating the performance of servers.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 June 2014, 2:32 PM MDT
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