AMDs Shaw: Steps Are Needed to Address Power Issue

In his keynote speech at Data Center World, AMD marketing executive says businesses must start preparing for the rising costs of power and cooling in the data center.

ORLANDO, Fla.—Despite the rapid rise of power and cooling costs in the data center, the technology industry—vendors and users alike—have fallen down on addressing the issues, according to an official with chip maker Advanced Micro Devices.

In his keynote speech at the Data Center World conference here on Sept. 11, Bruce Shaw, vice president of worldwide commercial and enterprise marketing at AMD, said that recent surveys by the chip maker and its partners show an alarming trend of data center administrators not realizing the looming crisis or not making any plans for addressing it.

At the same time, vendors only now are beginning to come together to find ways to measure and reduce power consumption in their products.

"We understand pieces of the problem, but we dont get the big picture," Shaw said.

Power and cooling is a key subject at the four-day AFCOM conference, and attendees were filling the rooms where presentations about the issue were being made.

That said, the survey results show a user base that still hasnt grasped how power and cooling costs will strangle their budgets unless they start looking at options to deal with the problem, Shaw said.

For example, while 71 percent of those surveyed in 2005 said that power and cooling were a becoming an issue, 12 percent said they were unsure, and another 17 said it wasnt a problem, results that Shaw called "troubling."

Twenty-three percent said they were addressing the issue by building larger data centers, despite the rising costs of building new facilities. Shaw estimated that the cost of building a 50,000-square-foot data center will grow from $20 million in 1990 to $250 million in 2010.

"Data centers are not cheap," he said. "Its a good indication that were still throwing real estate at [the problem]."

In addition, despite 71 percent of people saying that power and cooling were becoming problems, 62 percent said they were not changing their buying behavior. Eighty-four percent said they have no idea how to plan for power in the data center. "Its trial-and-error," Shaw said.

Fifty-four percent said they either have or are starting to implement a method for electrical planning, though 46 percent said they had no plan in place.

Users need to understand that the costs of data center power are only going to go up, he said. Data centers are huge consumers—the largest power consumer in the Atlanta area is an Internet search provider. Servers consume anywhere from 38 to 63 percent of the power in the data center; cooling devices consume 23 to 54 percent.

Technology vendors are coming around, he said. In 2000, chip makers were talking only about cranking the speed of the processors, with thoughts of reaching 10GHz.

/zimages/6/28571.gifEPA power spec to address data center power crisis. Click here to read more.

Now Intel, AMD and others are using the increasingly shrinking manufacturing process—Intel and AMD are moving from a 90-nanometer to 65- nanometer process, and over the next few years will be able to get that down into the teens, Shaw said—to put more processing cores onto a single piece of silicon, which improves performance while not significantly cranking up the power consumption and heat generation.

Both Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., and AMD, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., are at dual-core now, and plan to introduce quad-core chips over the next year.

Virtualization—the ability to run multiple applications and operating systems on a single physical server—also is growing in adoption, enabling users to get more computing done without having to expand the footprint of the server.

Other technologies, such as on-board memory controllers, will continue to improve the chips performance without impacting its power consumption, Shaw said.

Also, a consortium of companies—including AMD, Sun Microsystems, Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard—have joined together to create the Green Grid Alliance, which is aimed at improving power efficiency in the data center through such avenues as education and the establishment of server power measurement standards.

"We need to set meaningful metrics" to enable users to figure out how efficient servers are, Shaw said. "The lack of knowledge on this is the biggest problem right now."

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