Big Blue launches mainframe energy gauge

Real-time power consumption tool released

IBM has launched a programme that it claims allows mainframe users to monitor their systems' energy consumption in real-time.

IBM says it plans to start publishing typical energy consumption data for its System z9 mainframe. The data will be derived from field measurements of about 1,000 live production machines. The measurements will determine average watts per hour consumed, which can be used to calculate watts per unit.

The metering system works by monitoring a mainframe's energy and cooling statistics as collected by internal sensors and presents them in real time on the System Activity Display. Users can then correlate the energy consumed with work actually performed and, when the machine reports its maintenance health on a weekly basis, its power statistics can be used. These statistics can be observed real time or summarised for project or trend analysis. The company says energy consumption statistics are used for demonstrating cost savings towards electric rebates and programmes to reduce datacentre energy consumption.

Big Blue says it has a power estimator tool available to enable future planning. It calculates how changes in system configurations and workloads can affect the entire energy envelope — including the power needed to both run and cool the machines.

For example, a user adding a single mainframe processor for Linux applications could project the amount of additional energy required before and when the feature is turned on, according to IBM. Normally less than approximately 20 watts are added when an Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) feature is turned on, the company says.

Big Blue says a mainframe processor with zVM virtualisation can typically perform the work of multiple x86 processors because a mainframe is designed for running many mixed workloads at high utilisation rates. It claims that a single processing chip executing hundreds of workloads efficiently is key to consuming less energy than multiple x86 servers, and that this translates into a simplified infrastructure and cost savings.

IBM says it collected data for August and September 2007 which showed that typical energy use can be normally be 60% of the "label" or maximum rating for the model of mainframe measures. The company says this means it can claim to be the first organisation to embrace recommendations from a recent US Environmental Protection Agency report that encourages server vendors to publish typical energy consumption figures for servers.

IBM says the metering system is being launched in tandem with a new program to publish consolidated real-world consumption figures by model for System z9. Typical use figures will assist datacentre planning, as they will give datacentreesigners an idea of how much energy a particular mainframe consumes.

IBM says it has summarised the field population data for each month since August 2, when the EPA published the report to US Congress on Datacentre and Server Energy Efficiency. The EPA encouraged server vendors to publish typical energy usage numbers to enable purchasers of servers to make informed decisions based on energy efficiency.

"The mainframe's high utilisation rates and extreme virtualisation capability may help make it a more energy-efficient choice for large enterprises," says David Anderson, who directs IBM's energy efficiency programme for its System z systems . "A single mainframe running Linux may be able to perform the same amount of work as approximately 250 x86 processors while using as little as 2-10% of the amount of energy. Customers can now measure the energy advantages of IBM System z."

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