February 1, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Electric slide for tech industry?

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One fix from decades ago that's come back into vogue is liquid cooling. Hewlett-Packard, Egenera, Silicon Graphics and IBM all have added liquid-cooling options to their hardware.

"Water cooling and liquid cooling is coming back," data center design expert Sullivan said. "From an efficiency standpoint, the closer you can get water cooling to the processor, the more efficient it's going to be."

Plugging processor leaks
Chip designers are working on ways to reduce power consumption. Processors have become a major electrical problem in part because newer manufacturing technologies have led to electrical current "leakage" rather than fruitful use.

For servers with two processor sockets, Intel's current "Irwindale" models of Xeon chips consume 110 watts. But Michael Patterson, a thermal engineer in Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, said a significant power improvement will arrive in the upcoming "Woodcrest" model. That chip, due in the second half of 2006, has dual-processing cores, employs an architecture taken from the Pentium M mobile processor and is built with a new manufacturing process with 65-nanometer features compared to Irwindale's 90-nanometer process.

Woodcrest CPUs will use 80 watts, Patterson said. "That's not a low-voltage part. That's the performance-optimized processor," he said.

In addition, Intel said last week that the next "Montecito" generation of its higher-end Itanium processor will consume 100 watts, compared with 130 watts for current models.

The next problem will be in the computer's memory subsystem, which will guzzle more than half of a computer's power by 2008, Papadopoulos said. "These things are pigs," he said, and they're only getting worse with the move to DDR2 memory and, later, fully buffered DIMMs," he said, referring to a newer version of the double data rate memory standard and to its higher-speed sequel.

Sun just introduced its UltraSparc T1 "Niagara"-based servers, which need much less power than most mainstream servers, and is working on two technologies it hopes will reduce electricity consumption further.

"Computer memory subsystems are pigs."
--Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer, Sun

One is proximity input-output, which replaces communications wires and their accompanying processing chips with direct connections between the bottom of one processor and the top of another. Another is technology that has optical, rather than electrical, communication links.

Regarding energy use, "proximity I/O is way favorable. You get much higher bit (transfer) rates, and the power-per-bit (cost) goes way down," Papadopoulos said.

Also under way are methods to increase server utilization, so that systems can run closer to top capacity. Turner said many customers sheepishly report their servers are only running at 17 percent capacity on average, but in fact that's better than most.

One tool in extending utilization is virtualization, a technology that enables several operating systems to reside on the same server, among other things. "Only 20 percent of data centers we survey aren't doing virtualization, and I think they're the 'going out of business' data centers," Turner said.

The quickest, easiest step to improve power problems today is to install more-efficient power supplies, Berkeley's Koomey said. The EPA lets manufacturers give such supplies, which convert AC power from the wall to DC power used inside the computer, an "80+" label if they're more than 80 percent efficient. That "Energy Star" label means that they lose less than 20 percent of the power they draw in waste heat. But efficiencies of only 70 or 72 percent are typical for power supplies.

Those EPA Energy Star labels won't work for servers, though, because customers order them in too wide a variety of configurations, Patterson said.

"There's a huge number of permutations of what it's going to look like. There's not going to be a yellow sticker for each one of those," Patterson said. "We need something, but that's not it."

Labels on the power supplies give customers a good leverage to persuade computer equipment suppliers to increase efficiency, Koomey said: "They should be leaning on the vendors, but I'm surprised how little it happens."

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10 comments

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Power Supply Efficiency
"The EPA lets manufacturers give such supplies, which convert AC power from the wall to DC power used inside the computer, an "80+" label if they're more than 80 percent efficient. That "Energy Star" label means that they lose less than 20 percent of the power they draw in waste heat. But efficiencies of only 70 or 72 percent are typical for power supplies."
Efficiency measurement is going to depend on power supply loading. There is no efficiency constant for the power supply, it is a curve from light load to full load, reaching a peak somewhere in the middle (like 75% full load).
Perhaps if power supplies were better selected for their specific use, they could achieve real improvements in wasted power reduction. I get the feeling that the power supply is usually an afterthought, oh 550 Watts that ought to be enough.
Posted by cyn1c (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
72-75%??? 80+ Power Supplies is the way to go.
I have been pushing 80+ Seasonic Power supplies. PG&E will not only give a rebate of up to 10.00 for each 80+ power supply in a server, you will save money on your electricity bill and have a cooler system.

www.jameco.com for more information
Posted by mendozamanny (3 comments )
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Teach Them To Fish
Most of the press this week has been focused on what IT equipment and component manufacturers can do, should do and are doing. Not once have I read a single statement that puts any responsibility of efficient energy use back on to the owners and operators of data centers. The industry, as a whole, has provided many best practices documents to help customers make the best of what they have. However, complacency has been the order of the day. Take the basics best practices such as hot-isle/cold-isle, using blanking panels and plugging holes in floors. Over 50% of the computer rooms I've been into don't or won't adopt those practices.
LBNL published a study in Feb 2003 that showed the average energy balance of energy consumption of 12 data centers. Cooling cost as a percentage of overall energy use ranged from as low as 22-25% to as high as 50-55%. Those doing a good job obviously spend less on cooling due to more efficient airflow management. Our Advanced Technology Team in Houston has been been publishing White Papers on best practices for more than three years.
There is a saying "while I'm pointing one finger at you (hardware industry) I must realize the there are three fingers pointing back at me".
Before any hardware solutions can begin to make a significant difference, Computer Room operators and owners need to realize their role and responsibility in using what they have in a practical and efficient manner. Most data centers are so screwed up in their layout and management, no hardware fix will help cure their energy consumption problems.
"Teach them to fish and they can feed themselves".

Bob Pereira
Enterprise Infrastructure Technologist
Industry Standard Server Group
Hewlett Packard
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Power supplies?
While I appreciate an efficient power supply as
much as the next guy (and I believe that
efficiency for the EPA is measured at peak
load), how about the components? Those things
are getting *HOT*. If you want to talk
inefficient, there you go.

I'd also add that we home consumers would really
like some of that energy efficiency too. Home
servers, media centers, etc. are getting to be
pretty common. Could we get something that
doesn't dim the lights when we turn it on,
please?
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Forgotten A/C Loads
The article only briefly mentions air conditioning, yet a 20 kw draw rack consumes 6 tons of A/C, or more than a house. Time for demand loading, or else send all rack rooms to the artic and melt icebergs.
Posted by CableDOC (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Article about efficient computing that does not mention Opteron?
You guys outdo yourself every time!
Posted by (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
finger pointing
The government doesn't want to focus on the users because they won't agree to wear the e-star mark on the top or front of their heads. ;-)
Posted by MediaRites (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Efficiency, Usage, and AC/DC conversion
I would be astounded if the average powers supply
gets over 70% efficiency. More likely is the
situation found with "wall warts" in which the
device consumes 1 watt even if there is no load,
plus 20% of whatever is plugged into it.

If a cell phone charger or similar intermittent
usage device is plugged in 24/7, then you might
see 70% efficiency when the device is actually
charging a battery, and 0% efficiency (100% waste)
when the battery is full. Total system efficiency
might average out to 10% or 20% depending, and
that assumes that the power supply is properly sized to its load.

If, as often happens, the power supply is twice
as large as it needs to be, then there will most
likely be additional base power consumption, which
means that the total efficiency will fall down to
the 60% range.

Computer systems which turn off disk drives, monitors,
etc. do not help with this problem: You have to
disconnect the main power transformer from the
wall plug.

The actual situation with regard to power supplies
is that, while many systems, especially in servers,
are able to achieve efficiency over 75%, there
are a large number of power supplies out there
which are under 20%.
Posted by (139 comments )
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Factual Errors
Sorry to nit pick, but this is a little bit of home town pride. While the mall of america is the largest mall in the US, it is not the largest in the world. Edmonton, Alberta in Canada has the largest mall in the world named West Edmonton Mall. Sorry guys.
Posted by mastmar221 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I use http://www.experthoustonelectrician.com for my electrician needs; they are fast, professional, courteous and know their business well. If you are looking for an electrician then <a href="http://www.ExpertHoustonElectrician.com">Expert Houston Electricians</a> is the way to go!
Posted by kimsmith79 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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