China is the world’s biggest energy consumer and home to 500 million internet users. Unprecedented demand and policies are driving rampant growth in data centers throughout the country. Data centers are growing in number, size, and intensity in China and the U.S. and the pace becomes faster in the next decade to keep pace with the growing needs for cloud computing and mobile services. As an “always-on” operation, data centers are operated 24 hours a day every day, consuming massive amounts of energy. As an energy-intensive segment of the new digital economy, data center growth has a great need for energy efficiency. 


DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) and China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), as well as key industry members are working together to promote open standards, test procedures, specifications, and evaluation metrics for U.S. and Chinese data centers. LBNL is working with participants in the Open Compute Project (OCP) to expand its concept to China. This initiative will align efforts in the U.S. and China to develop specifications and standards on performance and efficiency of data center buildings and equipment. This will result in common sets of standards, specifications, and testing protocols. The lack of harmonization in data center and ICT specifications between the two world’s largest data center markets would create unclear market signals for manufacturers to mass produce and for customers to widely adopt compatible products and technologies that are more efficient in cost and energy. The industry-driving-the-market initiative described here is a joint effort of private and public organizations from both countries to establish an effective process and working mechanism for harmonizing data center standards enabling greater energy and cost savings while transforming the market in fast track for energy efficiency. 

View white paper detailing the resulting specifications from the project.

Learn more about the second phase and continuation of the project.


Through establishing a working group of key market players of both countries and developing important consensus, the initiative developed joint specifications related to data center equipment, systems, and operations that will save energy that could be adopted by the industry as standards. A small working group of influential potential users/buyers of warm liquid cooled equipment that are active in open standards organizations was formed. The working group includes staff from the following organizations:

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • China Institute of Electronics
  • Tencent
  • Baidu
  • Alibaba
  • Intel
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google
  • Microsoft


The two specifications being focused on are:

  • Liquid cooled racks: Always-on cooling in data center consumes over half of the energy use in data centers in both countries, which creates tremendous environmental and climate consequence. A number of companies have begun to explore liquid cooling to the server as an alternative to chillers that use planet-warming refrigerants. While liquid cooling to the server is not widely in use, the future need (e.g. higher densities) and potential (e.g. higher efficiencies) is understood. There are currently no common specifications with most liquid cooling solutions being unique and proprietary. Such lack of standards and lack of multi-source solutions are seen as impediments to wide market adoption of liquid cooling. Influential market players could drive faster development and adoption of such technology for the benefit of themselves as well as the industry. The specification could include but is not limited to, fluid selection and quality, supply pressure, temperature, and flow, delta pressure and temperature, header size and material, connection spacing, size, and details. Our goal is to establish a liquid cooled rack specification that could accommodate multiple vendors and provide an infrastructure for multiple cycles of refresh with a variety of liquid cooled servers/suppliers. Ideally the liquid cooled rack specification would be compatible with the existing OCP and Scorpio rack design(s) (e.g. electrical supply and distribution). To learn more about liquid cooling technology, click here.
  • Environmental conditions of servers: While the ASHRAE recommended ranges for data center environments have provided significant benefits, optimum conditions are likely broader for many applications. Leading market players can create a market pull for IT equipment that can efficiently run in broader environmental ranges for greater periods of time with minimal sacrifices in performance or reliability, reducing the need for cooling and energy use. Based on research and practices of the collaborating companies we will develop a consensus around such a recommended range, seek to define levels of maintained performance (to assure a net gain in overall performance and total cost of ownership, or TCO), and identify applications where such a broader range makes sense and where they may not.


This working group effort has resulted in a proposed set of requirements, available in a published white paper. 


In June 2017, Dale Sartor of LBNL traveled to Shanghai and met with a range Chinese partners to discuss advancing energy efficiency in data centers. We participated in the Data Center Dynamics Conference, giving a ½ day workshop on best practices for energy efficiency in data centers (presentation here) and partaking in two panel discussions- The Future of the Data Center and The Future of Warm Water Liquid Cooling for the High-Density Data Center, and Harmonization of International Standards (presentation here), where we announced our recent harmonization project.

Dale Sartor and Dr. Bo Shen of LBNL met with 4 companies (Intel, Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba) and the Chinese Institute of Electronics (CIE) to strategize collaborative efforts between the leading companies of China and the U.S. (Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Intel) to harmonize open data center standards and specifications. The initial goal is to develop a liquid cooled rack specification compatible with existing OCP and Scorpio rack designs that could accommodate multiple vendors and provide an infrastructure for multiple cycles of refresh with a variety of liquid cooled servers/suppliers.  Effectively linking efforts in both countries will enhance efficiency in both energy consumption and cost. The working group tentatively decided to develop the pathway for harmonizing standards for immersion technology and cold plate technology in parallel, with a focus on equipment cabinet, using which as a black box for specific standardization work. For the next step, Alibaba will take the lead to develop an outline for the standardization work from the user need points of view, which will be discussed by the working group members from both US and China.

 The team that participated in the International Harmonization Panel