Getting servers off the juice

Datacenter power consumption has become topic du jour. But do you know how much power your servers use or how much it costs?
Written by John G. Spooner, Contributor

Datacenter power consumption has become topic du jour. But do you know how much power your servers use or how much it costs? Apparently, many companies still don't. Now several of the top computer industry companies, including Advanced Micro Devices and now Intel, are seemingly putting aside their differences to join in The Green Grid in what they position as an effort to raise awareness of growing datacenter power consumption and then curb it.

There are some hard facts to show that, due to the amount of servers they employ, datacenters consume large amounts of electricity. That power goes both to run the servers machines and also to keep them cool. All of that power costs companies. Meanwhile, electricity rates have been on the upswing. A study, sponsored by AMD, used IDC server shipment and installed base numbers to conclude that U.S. data center electricity consumption doubled between 2000 and 2005. During 2005, the AMD-sponsored study found that U.S. datacenters used 45 billion kWh of electricity or about 1.2% of U.S. electricity sales during the period, to power and cool servers and auxiliary equipment. The cost came to $2.7 billion. That’s a lot of juice. Not to mention at least some of it was created by burning not-so-eco-friendly coal or oil. There's a link to the study, here:  Link.

Whereas we’ve already seen Intel and AMD as well as Sun and IBM take steps to deliver more power-efficient server processors, the Green Grid promises take another step forward by creating a set of standards, specifications and best practices that datacenter operators can use to cut their power consumption. One of the first things The Green Grid has released is a whitepaper (link here) describing guidelines for creating more energy-efficient datacenters.

I believe this is a step in the right direction in terms of helping datacenter operators. One of the first things that the Green Grid and others must do is to develop a method to measure the power consumption of an individual server versus another server for a specific application. Not only does that serve the higher goal of the Green Grid, to foster more awareness of electrical consumption for datacenters and thus allow companies to make better decisions about how to build them, but it would also help IT managers do their jobs.

Having several of the top-named computer companies, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Rackable Systems and Sun Microsystems as well as power and cooling systems manufacturer American Power Conversion and software maker VMWare--all of whom serve on The Green Grid's board of directors--all targeting datacenter power reduction could prove to be beneficial to businesses who buy servers, while also minding the environment. But let's hope a cut in energy reduction in this one area doesn't just serve to free up some juice for other devices. 

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