Group Creating Tools to Rate Server Power Use

Several top computer industry companies are on the road to creating a universal set of measurements for server power consumption—something they hope will become the equivalent of a server miles per gallon—in an effort to help businesses grapple with rising data center energy bills.

The group, dubbed Eco Forum, includes representatives from Advanced Micro Devices, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergyStar program.

It is still in the early stages of its work—it has met once thus far on March 27 at Sun’s corporate campus. However, the group has already started laying the foundations for what it hopes will be broadly acceptable server power consumption measurements, which could be used to determine how much electricity a given machine uses for doing a specific task, allowing similar machines to be rated against each other.

The forum’s work comes as concerns about server energy consumption are growing among senior IT managers, due to rising electric rates, higher oil prices and hefty increases in new server deployments over the past few years.

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Yet, at the moment, there are no universally accepted tests—like the fuel mileage ratings in the auto industry—available for those managers to use in comparing different machines and making purchasing decisions about them.

If successful, the group’s proposed measurements could help create the first broadly accepted server power miles per gallon ratings.

“The consensus among [the group] is that power is a concern—that customers are seeing it, manufacturers are seeing it, and it is something that we’re all going to need to deal with,” said Ed Hunter, director of Sun Microsystems’ Eco-Responsibility Initiative and one of the Eco Forum’s masters of ceremonies, in Santa Clara, Calif.

What are chip makers like Intel doing about power? Click here to read more.

However, “There’s [also] a consensus that there isn’t a good way for customers to really compare the energy efficiency of different products that they might buy. So what we’re going to try is to drive some measurements for how they might do that.”

To that end, the group is defining the set of procedures that people could follow to determine a server’s energy consumption—therefore revealing information about its relative efficiency—during a given task.

The procedures to do this will have to be made as specific as possible, defining everything from what performance benchmarks to use to things like the locations of temperature sensors on server racks, to produce results IT managers can use for comparative purposes, Hunter said.

Ideally, the tools would measure the amount of electricity a machine draws at the wall or electrical socket, allowing them to account for its processors, memory and all additional components, including hard drives and power supplies, over different workloads, group members have said.

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