Data centres - it's time to cut the power

It's not the lack of space we need to worry about in datacentres...
Written by Leader , Contributor on

Rack space in London is reaching a premium, but does that really mean they are all filled to bursting with servers? Well, not exactly. That may well be the case in co-location facilities, but it is certainly not the case in most in-house server rooms, where paradoxically, the amount of free rack space is actually increasing with the IT demands.

The reason is that for most humble -- and many not-so-humble -- office buildings, the utility companies won't provide any more juice and the air conditioning is just dripping condensation through skinny pipes that were installed a decade ago. Back then, the most power Intel could see a chip ever needing was 16W. Now most server chips are moving towards using five times that amount of power.

And now that many servers are being upgraded once more, IT managers are finding that they fit in half the space, but consume twice the power and generate four times the heat. The infrastructure simply can't cope.

It's a problem common across the land and, although it's hard to imagine this week, the first hot day of the year will be here before we know it and will bring with it the inevitable annual server-room meltdowns.

Utility computing is one solution, but really that just shifts the problem around rather than solving it. What is needed is ever more focus on power consumption -- mainly of the processors, but hard drives are also notable culprits as manufacturers seek increase the amount of I/O operations per rack of disks.

When Intel later this year launches Montecito, its dual-core, multi-threading version of Itanium with 24MB of cache, it will have an unprecedented 1.72 billion transistors, and those will all be generating a lot of heat. That's why Intel is also introducing several server power-saving mechanisms of the type now common in notebooks. Demand-based switching, for instance, will throttle back a processor according to workload.

While it is fascinating to hear the news coming out of the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week, we need even more focus on power at every point in the chain. It might not seem like it now, but summer is just around the corner. Are you ready for it?

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