Performance per watt becomes growing issue in the datacentre

Power consumption in the datacentre has come under the spotlight following last month's Intel Developer Forum, where it was a key theme.

Power consumption in the datacentre has come under the spotlight following last month's Intel Developer Forum, where it was a key theme.

The electricity costs of datacentres not only affect in-house facilities, but also those that are outsourced, where this cost is passed back to the user.

Owen Williams, head of IT at property firm Knight Frank, said power consumption had not been a high priority in the past. "We do not identify our electricity costs separately from our overall premises costs in our in-house datacentre," he said. But he added that the firm's outsourced datacentre providers were looking to charge more for blade server racks due to power demands.

John King, enterprise server manager at Hewlett-Packard, recommended that users considering adopting blade servers assess their datacentre facilities in terms of electricity requirements.

However, a study by analyst firm Gartner found that users do not generally examine power consumption issues within server farms.

Intel chief executive Paul Otellini said, "The importance of performance per watt is obvious for things you carry along with you, such as laptops - you want higher performance and longer battery life. But increasingly it is essential for things beyond mobility."

Otellini said power efficiencies would be gained as desktop and server hardware moves to multi-core processor architectures. These servers and desktops will be able to achieve greater performance without increasing the clock speed of the server, which boosts performance but can be costly in terms of power consumption and causes chips to run hotter.

According to Intel, power and cooling costs have become a large part of the total cost of ownership in datacentres. Increasingly, companies are measuring a platform's capabilities in terms of the amount of performance achieved per watt consumed.

Typical power consumption

A basic Citrix-style implementation with the servers having two discs, 4Gbytes of memory, redundant power supply and dual Intel CPUs would use the following:

24 blade servers

  • 10,685 watts
  • 36,488 British thermal units
  • Weight including 42U rack: 557kg

24 1U servers

  • 11,753 watts
  • 39,407 British thermal units
  • Weight including 42U rack: 530kg

Source: Hewlett-Packard

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