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By John G. Spooner  |  Posted 2006-04-14 Print this article Print

Thus, some of the groundwork the group is undertaking now includes choosing the types of benchmarks that customers will find most relevant and sorting out server hardware—both the types of servers the measurements should address and how to configure them. Other issues include identifying and specifying air temperature ranges and temperature probe placement, Hunter said. At issue for the groups own relevance are ensuring that it selects benchmarks, servers and server configurations, and environmental parameters that are relevant to customers and difficult to tamper with.
Defining air temperatures, for one, would help prevent a tester from feeding 50-degree air into one machine and 100-degree air into another, which would affect test results.
The forum hopes to present the results of its initial work at a meeting scheduled to take place in June in Washington D.C. There, the group is also likely to up the ante by discussing issues such as the design of server power supplies, Hunter said. "I think what youll see in the June forum [is the group saying], Heres a list of problems that we think are important to address, and then asking the industry … what they want—how they want these addressed." Aside from helping to compare individual machines, the forums metrics might also be used to project servers future power consumption, thereby helping companies create more accurate data center electricity budgets, members have said. Hunter stopped well short of calling its measurements for server power an industry standard, however. "At this point no one is talking about any energy standards," he said. "[One thing] I would be wary of is us starting off saying, OK, were going to create the standard." Given that many manufacturers involved—Sun, for one, created SWaP (Space, Watts and Performance) to take stock of data center efficiency—have already made attempts to measure their servers power consumption or assist their customers in controlling data center power, trying to force its work on the industry as a standard might risk delaying its progress, he said. Indeed, some of the forums efforts are also likely to go into garnering broad-based support. Some of that may come soon as AMD is expected to announce in the near future a parallel effort to gather numerous industry players to focus on improving energy consumption in the data center. What is AMD saying about server power? Click here to read more. Power "is something thats very important to people these days, and having a way to measure it might be a really good idea," said Gordon Haff, analyst at Illuminata in Nashua, N.H., in a recent interview. But Haff also cautioned that, because benchmarks can be skewed toward one type of result or another at times, the forum might also find challenges in gaining a critical mass of supporters. Hence the focus on gaining a broad swath of industry input versus trying to force a standard, Hunter said. "The purpose of the discussion [among the group] is to start to build the framework for how you go about taking these measurements, and [ensure] the metrics are customer-driven," he said. "What we wanted to avoid is getting into a metrics war." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

John G. Spooner John G. Spooner, a senior writer for eWeek, chronicles the PC industry, in addition to covering semiconductors and, on occasion, automotive technology. Prior to joining eWeek in 2005, Mr. Spooner spent more than four years as a staff writer for CNET, where he covered computer hardware. He has also worked as a staff writer for ZDNET News.

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