Servers Get Relief from Heat

Intel and AMD pave the way for cooler chips, while APC offers server racks with power management and air conditioning units.

Enterprises feeling the financial heat in densely packed data centers are turning to chip makers, OEMs and software vendors for help in managing power and cooling issues.

Solutions are coming on a number of fronts. This month, chip makers Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. will detail plans for cooler-running systems that feature improved processor performance with reduced energy consumption.

Meanwhile, American Power Conversion Corp. is improving specialized server racks with integrated cooling capabilities.

The major OEMs, for their part, are offering design services to help businesses set up energy-efficient data centers, and software makers are rolling out products that distribute workloads and manage server power.

The efforts come as heat and power concerns threaten to overcome enterprise IT. According to Bobby Jefferson, IT director at Hillco Ltd. in Kinston, N.C., "Its been getting bad over the past three or four years. Before, we had these big, bulky servers. Now, theyre so small and so dense. With blades, its going to be even more of an issue."

Intel researchers will present at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco this week details of its "Foxton" technology, set to appear in the fourth quarter in the next generation of its 64-bit Itanium 2 chip, "Montecito."

The chip maker has been able to reduce the power envelope of Montecito to 100 watts from 130 watts in the current chip, the Itanium 2 9M, said Nimish Modi, vice president of Intels Digital Enterprise Group and general manager of its Enterprise Microprocessor Division, in Santa Clara, Calif.

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The chip will offer two cores on a single die, with each core running multiple threads simultaneously. A power meter on the chip lets Foxton dynamically adjust processor voltage and frequency according to demand, resulting in a performance boost while maintaining power consumption. Foxton will be brought into Intels Xeon processors at a later date, Modi said.

In addition, Montecito will feature demand-based switching capabilities currently found in Intels Xeon and Pentium processors. The technology works with the servers operating system to reduce energy consumption at times of low utilization, Modi said.

Intel is trading off frequency for better power management, Modi said. Although Montecito will initially max out at 2GHz—compared with 1.6GHz for the 9M—the frequency jump is not as large as in previous chip transitions.

Next Page: AMD and APC cool off as well.