Averting An Energy Crisis

Tech analysis: Power-efficient solutions' value is all relative.

There are few, if any, IT managers today who can fill their data centers without worrying about increasing electricity and cooling costs.

A survey of 1,177 organizations commissioned last year by eWEEKs parent company, Ziff Davis Media, found that while 44 percent of companies were able to supply more power to their data centers, 27 percent chose to consolidate servers, 25 percent reorganized those servers into hot-aisle/cool-aisle configurations and 23 percent increased the size of their data centers.

New power-efficient solutions coming online can help companies reduce their energy costs, but the level to which that will happen depends on several factors.

When evaluating hardware, software and services designed to make companies more energy-efficient, IT managers also should figure in software licensing, acquisition, management and IT manpower expenses to determine the real savings that can be attained. eWEEK Labs Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar, for example, says that a companys power bills during a period of one year may not exceed the cost of deploying a potentially energy-saving new archiving solution.

/zimages/2/28571.gifHenry Baltazar writes that energy efficiency takes a back seat to data accessibility when it comes to storage. Click here to read more.

eWEEK Labs has seen several solutions aimed at energy consumption and heat dissipation since Transmeta launched its low-power chips in 1999. In March, Intel released the dual-core Low Voltage Xeon processor, which has a power envelope of 31 watts. eWEEK Labs tests of the processor in a Rackable Systems C1000-L01 server showed noticeable power-conservation capabilities, but we see the processor—a 32-bit-only chip—as a necessary attempt by Intel to catch up to Advanced Micro Devices and its 64-bit Turion low-voltage chip.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read a review of the Rackable Systems C1000-L01 server.

Power charge

AMD, in fact, has been leading the conservation charge in general.

AMDs Opteron server processor has a 95-watt power envelope while Intels Xeon processor consumes between 110 watts and 165 watts. AMDs Opteron processors come in three heat grades, allowing customers to choose the level of performance versus power that is right for their organization.

AMD and Intel arent the only chip makers taking power consumption into consideration. Last year, for example, Sun Microsystems introduced its Sun Fire T2000 server armed with the 1.2GHz UltraSPARC T1 processor. The UltraSPARC T1 can hold as many as eight cores, with each core running four threads for a total of 32 simultaneous threads.

/zimages/2/28571.gifTo read more about Sun Microsystems Sun Fire T2000, click here.

Sun outfitted the UltraSPARC T1 with its CoolThreads multithreading technology to offer greater performance while keeping energy consumption and heat generation low. CoolThreads technology lets servers do simpler things with simpler threads and allows Sun to provide to its customers more cost-effective systems that use less power. In fact, the UltraSPARC T1 has a 70-watt power envelope.

This year, we expect to see new processors give an edge to blade servers—one of the most popular and fastest-growing segments in the markets. Heat dissipation from dense blade server chassis is currently a concern for IT administrators, but its a concern we expect to be mitigated as Intel and AMD release chips better-suited for the platform.

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

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