Vendors tackle looming datacentre power crisis

A predicted shortage of electricity is being addressed by a multi-vendor body

The IT industry’s thirst for energy is growing exponentially, far outpacing the supply of reliable, clean power. In response, a group of leading IT firms has banded together to try to head off an impending energy crisis in the datacentre.

Eleven enterprise heavyweights including Microsoft, IBM, Sun, HP, Intel, AMD and VMWare a have formed a non-profit group called The Green Grid to drive new metrics, technology standards and best practices for curbing power consumption.

Robust growth in the IT sector and in companies’ use of technology is leading to an acute power shortage, according to analyst firm Gartner. Half the world’s datacentres will run out of power by the end of 2008, Gartner estimates, and that means companies face swelling utility bills as they struggle to keep their servers cool and humming.

Many of the companies participating in The Green Grid are individually developing energy-efficient technologies. However, joining forces to tackle the power-consumption problem holistically is a must, according to Green Grid board member Bruce Shaw, director of worldwide commercial and enterprise marketing at AMD. “No one player owns the kingdom. It’s not just a processor problem. It’s not just a server problem. It’s not just a memory problem. Everyone in the ecosystem needs to be involved.”

By working together, Green Grid companies can develop ways for their respective greener technologies to “hook into one another”, thus increasing their overall effectiveness, Shaw says.

The consortium started work last April, with representatives for AMD, Sun, IBM and HP getting the ball rolling. Not surprisingly, there have been challenges from the outset, including concerns about intellectual property and developing a standard way to measure power consumption

“Do you measure by performance per watt? Per dollar? Per thread? Something different?” posits Green Grid board member Colette LaForce, vice president of marketing at Rackable Systems.

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