You can never really understand
how much power a network server actually uses until you hear one
starting up. The loud whir of the fans mixed with the hum of the
hard drives can be equated to a small jet engine. The sound is
enough to make any accountant cringe at the thought of kilowatts
and hour dials spinning out of control.
Power consumption can add thousands of dollars onto the actual cost of a network
infrastructure. Companies in today’s business world no longer run a simple
client-server architecture in which computing power is limited to a few machines.
In order to be competitive, an individual network may be running Web servers,
e-mail servers, data warehouses, applications, media content and a host of other
services that can create a drain on any budget.
To attempt to answer the challenge of sustainable computing, server company Sun
Microsystems’ David Yen described his company’s blueprint to invest
in the greening of the computing industry in a recent posting on Sun’s
Boardroom Minutes page. He writes: “Green computing is a mindset that asks
how we can satisfy the growing demand for network computing without putting such
pressure on the environment. There is an alternative way to design a processor
and a system such that we don’t increase demands on the environment, but
still provide an increased amount of processing capability to customers to satisfy
their business needs. Green computing is not about going out and designing biodegradable
packaging for products.”
Sun Microsystems is standing behind Yen’s sentiments with its eco-friendly
line of servers. The T1000 and T2000 servers are equipped with Sun’s latest
addition to its family of processors, the UltraSPARC T1. A server running an
UltraSPARC T1 requires 70 watts of electricity compared to IBM and Intel chips,
which require 150-200 watts to complete the same tasks. To use layman’s
terms: 70 watts is less energy than most light bulbs consume.
It is very important to note that this reduction in energy use does not lower
the UltraSPARC T1’s computing power—so you won’t lose capabilities
as you reduce your environmental footprint. Sun’s newest chip takes advantage
of multithreaded computing. This is a processing chip’s ability to run
more than one part, or thread, of a specific program at one time. In the case
of the UltraSPARC T1, each core can execute four threads. In an eight-core UltraSPARC
T1, 32 threads can be run simultaneously. This equates in programs that take
advantage of multithreading to run roughly three-and-a-half times faster than
other processors. Thus, database servers, streaming media servers, application
servers and other task-heavy services will run much more smoothly under a processor
that takes advantage of multithreading.
Not only does Sun’s claim of green computing come from the UltraSPARC T1’s
lower electricity consumption, but also in how much cooler the servers run. Experts
say that a server room should be kept between 68-71 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent
excess wear and failures due to overheating. As Sun claims that the 4,000 parts
in a T2000 mean less heat generated by each server, less energy is therefore
used to keep the server room at an ambient temperature.
Sun’s dedication to green computing can be summed up in CEO Scott Mc Nealy’s
comments to an industry roundtable last September: “As the global market
expands, sustainable growth strategies can help companies dramatically cut costs
on data center environmentals, such as power and cooling, while still significantly
increasing capabilities of the computers that power the network. Sun is addressing
energy and resource efficiency, power consumption and waste management as we
help businesses and our employees meet the challenges created by the evolving
role of technology in our everyday lives.”
Individual businesses can gauge their power consumption as compared to their
computing power thanks to a new metric introduced by Sun called SWaP. SWaP—performance
/ (space x power)—is a simple calculation that allows any customer to compare
systems from different vendors. All of the data used to populate the SWaP metric
is publicly available on most company Web sites or can be found through simple
Web searches. Space: The space a server occupies can be measured by the rack
unit height of the system. Wattage: Metrics on the server’s power recorded
in watts. Estimated system power consumption from calculators or datasheets can
be also used to assess wattage. Performance: Information about the level of performance
or throughput a server maintains can come from any industry-standard benchmark.
Although this metric is not yet an industry standard, it gives a good idea of
how much power is required for servers to run, compared to the computing power
Having the technical data and cost savings are nice, but what does green computing
mean for the environment? Recently, Sun’s UltraSPARC T1 was awarded a 2006
Environmental Prize for “Product with Less Environmental Impact” by
the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Madrid, the Confederacion Empresarial
(Business Confederation) and the Autonomous Community of Madrid. The key features
cited in the awarding of this prize for the UltraSPARC T1 were:
UltraSPARC T1's performance could reduce by half the number of Web servers worldwide,
drastically diminishing energy requirements, and consequently having a similar
effect in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions as planting approximately
2,485 square miles of trees (Information included in Discover Magazine’s
August 2005 issue).
If half of the entry servers sold in the last three years were replaced by UltraSPARC
T1 processors, more than 11 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions—the
equivalent of what a million motor vehicles produce—would be eliminated.
A company whose data processing center is formed by 1,000 servers consumes 7.02
million kilowatts per year—without including refrigeration, physical space
requirements and other considerations. If the same calculations were made using
servers based on UltraSPARC T1 processors, consumption would be only 73,080 kilowatts
per year, a difference of more than 6.9 million kilowatts per year—and
enough energy to power the electric energy needs of 2,316 typical Spanish homes
for a full year. This would save the company 3.2 million euro ($3.9 million U.S.
dollars) in its electricity bill within only three years, on average.
To find out more about Sun Microsystems, visit www.sun.com.
Jeff Orloff is the associate editor for Green@Work magazine. He can be reached