IBM releases datacentre energy-saving products

New servers and applications will allow better power management, says Big Blue. Linda Rosencrance reports

IBM has unveiled hardware and software to help automate the management of power consumption in the data centre to improve power utilisation and reduce energy costs.

The company has also introduced a new line of System x servers based on the second generation of its Xtended Design Architecture (XDA), says Stuart McRae, worldwide manager for IBM System x. The new systems, including the x3650, x3550 and x3500, feature the latest in dual-core processor technology and three times the memory expansion of earlier systems, IBM says.

“Our dual-core announcement of Intel is not specific news for us, but it’s a tremendous performance opportunity for customers,” McRae says. “So, for us we’re excited because the new platforms deliver 90% better application performance and 74% better performance per watt. Power cooling is the number one challenge for customers’ datacentre environments — the more servers they pack in, the hotter they are. So their pain point is really moved to getting enough actual electricity and cooling to the servers in the datacentre.”

The introduction of IBM PowerExecutive on to the mainstream dual-socket servers is also important, McRae says. IBM PowerExecutive, an extension to IBM Director systems management software, allows clients to “meter” actual power usage and trend data for any single physical system or group of systems. Developed by IBM Research, PowerExecutive utilises IBM-developed monitoring circuitry to determine how much power is being used and the temperature of the system.

“PowerExecutive is all about managing the power consumption of your server resources — getting good information and allowing customers ... to know how much power their servers are consuming and then giving them the ability to control [that] amount,” he says. “Think of it as a cruise control for the power consumption of servers. Customers will be able to set the maximum power consumption for their servers and then PowerExecutive will manage the power ... so if its set to 400 watts per server that server will never consume more than 400 watts.”

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, says the most interesting piece of IBM’s news is the PowerExecutive.

“This is something I haven’t seen from anybody else in the market,” he says. “When you’re putting together a datacentre, just like when you’re putting together anything else, really all you know is what the maximum wattage is that something is going to draw ... over time it’s going to tell you the actual wattage and you’ll be able to, down the road, manage the amount of energy you want to spend on a particular task — that’s a pretty cool thing. This is something that competitors and other companies and even server groups within IBM are going to need to respond to and build that type of capability into their systems.”

Mitch Rosen, chief technology officer at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, says the university has deployed IBM System x two-way rack servers in a Linux cluster to support its intensive biomedical engineering research. Having the new server family was essential, he says.

As for PowerExecutive, Rosen says: “It’s not out yet, but I can speak to it this way: because I’m in a historical landmark situation, floor space is very expensive. So ... providing cooling here, having a high-compute capability and being able to manage some of the power and cooling costs is just in the sweet spot of what we need.

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