Sun Pushes Eco-Friendly Tech with SWaP Metric

As part of its eco-friendly technology campaign, Sun hopes its SWaP metric will help make data centers more efficient.

Sun Microsystems Inc. wants its users to SWaP for energy efficiency.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company is pushing the SWaP metric as a cornerstone of its eco-friendly technology campaign, which is being driven by its new UltraSPARC T1-based systems.

The Sun-developed metric is a way of evaluating a data centers efficiency. Sun officials say that it differs from other tools in that it includes data center real estate as a part of the equation.

Using the metric, the data centers efficiency is determined by multiplying space and power consumption, and then dividing the performance factor by that number. The metric can be calculated on Suns Web site, and the company hopes other vendors also will adopt it.

"Its the amount of throughput I can get from a certain amount of space—density, if you will—with the amount of power that I have," said Fadi Azhari, director of outbound marketing for Suns Scalable Systems Group.

"This is going to be more and more of a problem for customers, because more and more people are being added to the network."

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Power efficiency was a key aspect behind the development of the UltraSPARC T1—formerly codenamed "Niagara."

The chip offers up to eight cores, with each core able to process up to four instruction threads simultaneously, but offers a power envelope of about 70 watts, less than processors from such competitors as Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp., which can consume 90 watts or more.

The first systems running the processor, the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000, which were unveiled last month amid statements from Sun executives about the need for technology that helps businesses reduce costs and do less harm to the environment.

Sun has kicked off a print and outdoor advertising campaign highlighting both the SWaP metric and the overall eco-friendly message, and Azhari said that campaign will continue throughout the year.

One Sun customer said that he hasnt used the SWaP metric yet, but that he probably will as he begins to turn over the systems in his data center.

"Given that our growth rate is not particularly strong, it is not immediately important to us," said Michael Hodges, manager of system services at the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu. "Over time it will be though as we retire older servers."

Some industry analysts have touted the new metric in reports, saying that adding the space factor makes sense for businesses feeling the real estate squeeze.

However, Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc., said he was skeptical, given how different space concerns are from one business to another.

"The introduction of power efficiencies clearly makes a lot of sense for scale-out systems," said Haff, in Nashua, N.H.

"Theres always going to be a cost associated with power. Its never free ... [But] if you have an empty floor, space is not an issue. Its not that space doesnt have a cost associated with it, but its more of a lumpy cost."

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