A consortium of technology companies is hoping to create better ways to measure server power in a bid to allay growing concerns about enterprise energy bills.
The yet-to-be-named group, which includes chip makers such as Advanced Micro Devices and Intel, server manufacturers such as Sun Microsystems and the Environmental Protection Agencys Energy Star Program, to name a few, will meet this week to discuss creating a standard set of procedures for measuring servers total power consumption.
Server energy consumption has become a major concern for CIOs and IT managers amid rising electric rates and new server deployments, members of the group said.
Yet, at the moment, there are no universally accepted tests, analogous to automobile fuel mileage ratings, to help senior technology managers to compare the power consumption of different machines, group members said.
“The idea is to really look at this problem from a couple of different standpoints,” said Ed Hunter, director of Sun Microsystems Eco-Responsibility Initiative, in Santa Clara, Calif.
“First, [you need to look at it] from a purchasing standpoint. What you want is to solve problems—so, how much energy does it take to solve those problems?”
Given that different companies have different needs—for example, some rely heavily on databases, while others focus on Web transactions—and servers are configured differently to meet them, the group will aim to create a suite of metrics for measuring consumption in an effort to show how much juice it will take to get a given amount of work done, Hunter said.
Granted, “Some people will say, I want the [Toyota] Prius of servers,” Hunter said. “Some will say, I only want the Ferrari, and I understand it only gets 16 miles per gallon.”
Some group members have already proposed certain metrics. Sun, for one, created SWaP (Space, Watts and Performance) in order to take stock of datacenter efficiency.
SWaP figures are calculated by multiplying available space and power consumption, then dividing that by performance.
However, if successful, the groups proposed measurements could help create the first broadly accepted benchmarking tools for measuring an individual machines total energy consumption.
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 said.
The results would grant technology managers, in addition to server manufacturers, the metrics to weigh different machines based on their intended jobs, project future power usage and could even help companies set more accurate budgets, the group members said.
“It seems like every IT guy Im talking to is concerned about power,” said Brent Kerby, a product marketing manager for servers in AMDs Microprocessor Solutions Sector, in Sunnyvale, Calif., during a recent interview with eWEEK.
But some of the groups efforts may also involve simply garnering support.
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.
But given that benchmarks can, at times, be skewed toward one type of setup or another, the group might find a challenge in gaining a critical mass of supporters for its work, he said.
Still, the potential to help define a server power test—and, with it to foster a greater focus on power efficiency among corporations—is what brought the EPA Energy Star Program into the fold, said Andrew Fanara, team leader for Energy Star product development at the EPA in Washington.
“In general, the days of cheap energy are probably over,” Fanara said. “I tell people that energy efficiency can be a real strategy to hedge against the rising cost of electricity. If you dont do anything about it, youre essentially rolling the dice.”
Thus, in his view, the process helps provide information to the marketplace and in doing so, serves to make it better.
“[Well] set up manufacturers to compete against each other on efficiency—which right now theres no way for them to do,” he said.
The nascent power group, which grew out of a server power conference held on Suns corporate campus in late January, is scheduled to meet for the first time on March 27.