SAN FRANCISCO—Server makers are giving kudos to Intel for advances made in the area of performance and energy efficiency in its new chip architecture, and are planning major product launches around the upcoming Woodcrest server processor due out in the third quarter.
In interviews here at the Intel Developer Forum during the week of March 6, representatives for the top OEMs said the chip maker has made significant strides with the new Core Architecture, which was designed to increase a processors performance through a host of new features without increasing the amount of power it consumes.
“Woodcrest and the whole Core Architecture is very strong from a performance aspect, and the performance-per-watt is a very good story,” said Mark Potter, vice president of Hewlett-Packards BladeSystem unit.
“Were very much excited by what we see in Woodcrest.”
Power and heat are growing concerns among data center administrators who are putting smaller servers with more powerful processors in more dense environments.
At this years Spring IDF, power efficiency and performance have been the key themes as officials outlined details of the new architecture.
Intel officials point to a host of features that are enabling them to bring to market chips that boost power but—in most cases—reduce power consumption.
Dual-core technology and the ability to execute four instructions in a single clock are among the top reasons, as are energy management features such as power gating, which will shut down parts of the chip that are not in use at a particular moment.
The results are chips that will help Intel address issues that are a growing concern among enterprise data center administrators and narrow the gap between their chips and those of rival Advanced Micro Devices, of Sunnyvale, Calif.
Woodcrest in particular will show strong improvements in efficiency and performance.
In his keynote address, Justin Rattner, an Intel Fellow and CTO, said the chip will offer up to an 80 percent performance improvement while reducing power consumption by 35 percent over the chip makers current 2.8GHz Xeon DP.
HPs Potter said the Palo Alto, Calif., company is particularly encouraged by Intels push in this area.
HP officials knew several years ago that power and heat were going to become problems in the data center, and chose to roll out a line of systems running AMDs Opteron chips in large part because they were so much better in addressing those issues than Intels lineup.
“We knew there was going to have to a change,” Potter said. “HP launched a whole line of Opteron systems because we saw this coming.”
AMDs New Capabilities
The new capabilities being offered by AMD—which is scheduled to bring new processors to the market in the middle of this year when it releases its rev F lineup—and Intel dovetail with the functions HP puts into its Systems Insight Manager and OpenView management software that are designed to help the servers run more efficiently, Potter said.
Jay Bretzmann, manager of product marketing for IBMs xSeries systems, said the moves by both Intel and AMD, in combination with system-level features IBM already offers and its Enterprise X-Architecture, will enable the OEM to adequately address customer power and heat needs into the future.
“[Intel] got the religion of power conservation now, and thats very good now,” Bretzmann said.
He said power concerns among IBM customers in large part depend on where theyre located. Those in the power-hungry Northeast tend to have a different viewpoint that those in the Midwest.
“In the scheme of things, theyre not as concerned about the cost of power, but that power is consuming so much of the cost of their operations,” Bretzmann said.
IBM will continue to focus on air-cooling, though—like HP—the company does offer a liquid cooling device that fits onto a rack.
Water offers a 10-fold improvement over air in cooling efficiency, but “customers still have a visceral reaction to using liquid or water in the data center,” Bretzmann said.
“Well try to stay with air-cooling within racks as long as we can.”
In its systems, IBM offers Calibrated Vector Cooling, a technology that directs cool air through the machines.
For their part, Dell officials say that while some customers are concerned about power and heat, more pressing are such issues as total cost of ownership.
“Its very important to a small segment [of customers],” said Jay Parker, director of worldwide marketing for Dells PowerEdge servers.
“Were excited to get performance [in Woodcrest] ratcheted up at a near leadership level, but a lot of issues are more important to customers than power and cooling.”
Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, has stayed firmly in Intels camp and to this point has not rolled out AMD-based servers.
Parker pointed out that despite this, Dell continues to gain market share in the server space, an indication, he said, that while those issues may be growing in importance, they havent been enough to drive many people away from Dell to vendors selling AMD-based systems.
“The conversation [with customers] is rarely around power and cooling and processor cooling,” Parker said.
Instead, those conversations tend to revolve around ownership costs, Parker said.
That said, the release of the next generation of Dells PowerEdge systems will be tightly aligned with Intels launch of Woodcrest, Parker said.
They also will offer features designed to address the need to reduce the cost of owning the systems.
Key among those will be better image management, Parker said.
Managing software images can cost time and money if users are forced to manage too many different images, he said.
Dell current offers a consistent software image across its two-socket PowerEdge 1850, 2850 and 2800 systems.
Starting with the new server lineup, there will be a consistent image among all the single-socket systems and another in the four-socket servers.
Another way to keep customer costs down is to ensure that its blade systems will be able to fit in the same chassis even as the number of cores on a chip grow from two this year to four next year, Parker said.
“Thats a cost-of-ownership savings,” he said.
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