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U.S. EPA adopts the SPEC SERT suite

A significant milestone was achieved on September 17, 2018, as the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final version of the "ENERGY STAR Version 3.0 Computer Servers Program Requirements" which defines the Active State Efficiency Thresholds that will determine ENERGY STAR eligibility effective June 17, 2019. The new thresholds have been determined using data collected by running the SPEC Server Efficiency Rating Tool (SPEC SERT). Server vendors seeking ENERGY STAR certification under the version 2.0 of the EPA requirements were mandated to submit SPEC SERT data to the U.S. EPA.

In the United States, the government purchases only computer servers that have a U.S. ENERGY STAR certification. Hence it is crucial for all vendors to strive to improve the efficiency of their servers to be able to sell to the government, and as a result, improve the energy efficiency of the entire computer server industry.

Background Story: Environmental agencies around the world have a goal to promote practices that progressively reduce the environmental impact caused by various consumer products. Computer systems are evaluated for their energy efficiency, and only a certain percentage get a seal of approval. In the US, the DOE's EPA grants the ENERGY STAR certification to the computer systems that meet its prescribed criteria. This criteria is tightened periodically to ensure the industry continues to produce more efficient systems.

Historically, computer server-efficiency rating was based on idle power consumption but this is not a good mechanism of establishing energy efficiency. Thus the computer server industry worked collectively towards a goal of convincing the EPA to replace the idle power-based metric with one based on active state energy efficiency. However, this raised the question of what tool to use in order to measure the server efficiency.

In 2009, the EPA approached the SPECpower Committee, the creator of the first (and still the only) Energy Efficiency Benchmark – SPECpower_ssj2008. The EPA requested the SPECpower Committee to create a new tool to measure active state energy efficiency of a server. The SPECpower Committee, which comprised several computer server industry companies (AMD, Fujitsu, Dell EMC, HPE, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle), took on the challenge, and released the first version of the SPEC SERT suite in 2013.

Beginning June 17, 2019, the EPA will not accept any other form of certification collateral besides SPEC SERT. All computer server vendors who wish to acquire ENERGY STAR certification must run the latest version of SPEC SERT 2.0.1 and submit their results.

This latest development in ENERGY STAR certification marks the crowning achievement of a multi-year collaborative effort by the members of SPECpower Committee in transitioning the server industry from idle to an active state energy-efficiency metric. Having achieved this important milestone in the US, the next steps for the industry are to continue to canvas support for SPEC SERT adoption in the rest of the world, requiring continued dedication and collaboration with The Green Grid member companies and other agency contract firms.

Today, major companies around the world have environmental agencies with their own requirements for vendors to acquire the respective acceptance certificates. They document different sets of applications, procedures, and test methods in their region. This is a cumbersome task for server vendors who sell products globally, as they are required to execute region-specific applications using different methodologies to apply for qualification certification. Our goal is to convince the various international agencies to use SPEC SERT as the sole tool for determining computer server energy efficiency. As a result of this goal, OEMs will not need to run as many different tests for each product offering, which brings about additional efficiencies – cost, time to market, and lowering the barrier to segmentation are some. Every region’s adoption of SPEC SERT will result in time and power savings for a large set of vendors operating in that region.

To facilitate further global adoption, the SPECpower Committee is working with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) on ISO/IEC CD 21836 ( to create a standard based on the SPEC SERT suite to deliver compute performance more efficiently.