Group Eyes Server MPG

EPA, tech companies seek to measure power consumed.

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, server makers such as Sun Microsystems and the Environmental Protection Agencys Energy Star program, 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. Having access to metrics that weigh how much juice one machine uses versus another—the server equivalent of an mpg (miles per gallon) measurement—would make it easier for technology managers to choose among them.

"The idea is to really look at this problem from a couple of different standpoints," said Ed Hunter, director of Suns 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." But, overall, the measurements would give senior IT managers another way to weigh different machines and pick the most efficient ones for their applications, he said.

By getting involved, the EPA Energy Star program hopes to help define server- power test procedures. However, it also hopes to foster a greater focus on power efficiency among corporations, said Andrew Fanara, team leader for Energy Star product development at the EPA, in Washington.

"If we can, through this process, provide the information [on server power] to the marketplace, we will make the marketplace better," Fanara said. "[Well] set up manufacturers to compete against each other on efficiency." The nascent power group grew out of an Energy Star event earlier this year that included motivated early-adopter organizations, Fanara said. "They want it now," he said.

Group takes stock of server power



* Create measurements to evaluate each servers total power consumption and measure them against one another

* Establish those measurements as industry standards

* Potentially involve utilities and government in standards setting

* Help companies evaluate servers and thus make purchasing decisions based on their power needs

* Cut data center power consumption and hedge against rising energy costs

* Encourage utilities to offer companies rebates or other support for buying more efficient servers