Energy-Saving Servers: There’s More Work To Do

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Energy Star for servers won’t be a simple matter, because users will have to take account of the load on their servers and the amount of work they want to do, says Dell’s David Lear

But it can all get a bit simplistic, he warned. “One of the biggest struggles we have, is what is a good metric of efficiency? If you bought an automobile would say what is miles-per-gallon. A car like the Toyota Prius, is always the winner, and that is an easy metric to look at.”

Data centres are more diverse, and there may be struggles to define a clear Energy Star server rating: “If I have a family of five, the Prius is a great solution, but a data centre can be the equivalent of a family of a thousand, all needing to move quickly.” People may seize on the Energy Star server rating, without appreciating the more complex issues in servers, but Lear wants to feed the Green Grid’s experiences into the EPA’s programme.

“On the client, you know what the typical operating range is in a Windows type platform,” said Lear. “In the data centre, utilisation rates can change. Energy Star for servers will have to look at efficiencies at certain loads – that’s where the complexity comes in. You have to incorporate the amount of work the servers are doing – it’s a third dimension.”

A great time to be a CIO

The best tool for saving energy in the data centre virtualisation he said – agreeing with just about everyone else – but it’s not the end of the story: “There is a smorgasbord of options for the CIO – what a great place to be!”

“Every CIO can choose a different path because of his needs in the future,” said Lear. And all this has emerged recently. “Ten years ago, the cloud didn’t work. We didn’t have the tools or the networks to make it worthwhile. Now we do, and virtualisation has opened the door for cloud companies to do software as a service. We will see that grow and grow.”

But is there a danger that this complexity will lead to confusion? “Every company has to look at those trade-offs,” said Lear. New servers may give better performance, but “you have several other levers to pull before you need to make that decision”.

Yes, but Dell doesn’t want to sell fewer servers…

But is the industry being entirely honest when it suggests that lower power servers or consolidation, will result in less electricity demand? Companies will want to buy more servers surely, we asked. And we find it hard to believe that Dell’s business model is based on selling fewer servers.

“There might be some who can actually turn off some servers,” Lear answered. “We offer a data centre consulting service, just to help companies understand their workload and roadmap, and decide whether they need to expand their data centre.”

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