Kate's Comment

Thoughts on British ICT, energy & environment, cloud computing and security from Memset's MD

Getting value for Wattage

Power is becoming ever more of an issue for data centres, and the prices keep on going up – doubling in the last two years! Not only that, but the energy ends up as heat, which then has to be air-conditioned (add another 30% to the electricity bill), and then it all just wafts into the environment. All that is not helping when I want to water my garden and there is another hose-pipe ban!

We have been faithful Dell customers for quite some time – their PowerEdge servers are really well made and surprisingly good value for money. However, they will insist on only supplying Intel, and (for the next several months at least), Intel are behind the curve on processing power per Watt compared to AMD. Therefore we have been experimenting with the new Sun Fire X2100 rack mount servers; similarly good prices and quality, but apparently built with low power usage in mind, and using AMD Opterons as part of that.

Using a standard clamp meter we measured the power usage in various states and sure enough, the Sun’s performed well, especially compared to the PowerEdge SC1425’s with Dual Xeons which have monstrous power consumptions:

  Server Idle CPU Burn
Poweredge 850 P4 2.8GHz HT 105 Watts 154 Watts
Fire X2100, AMD Opteron 2GHz 88 Watts 121 Watts
Poweredge SC1425 Dual Xeon 2.8GHz 165 Watts 280 Watts
Fire X2100, AMD Opteron Dual Core 1.8GHz 100 Watts 180 Watts

In a nutshell, that is why we have started offering Sun Fire X2100 servers with AMD Opterons, and will are charging less for them too (power is one of our biggest costs!). The balance will swing back in Intel’s favor soon enough though with the release of their new Core 2 architecture.

Of course, the way to really save of power is with Virtual Machines, using something like our Miniserver™ technology. Most dedicated servers sit there twiddling their thumbs these days – a modern server has -far- more power than most online applications need. You may ask; “So why not just run more stuff on less boxes?”, well it is a valid question but people like having resources dedicated to one application, and certainly would not rather share hardware resource with other users, and with good reasons; security first and foremost. Consolidation onto VMs is the answer. Take your light-weight online applications that need their own dedicated server and pop them onto a VM that, say, has a CPU equivalent of a P4 1.6GHz, 256MB RAM and 20GB disk but is only actually using about 10Watts.

Which ever way you look at it, reducing server power consumption can be done without compromising performance and is good for your pocket and good for the environment, which means that everyone wins.

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