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Green buildings, Green Server Farms?

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the but-biogas-is-wind-energy dept.

Power 263

mstansberry writes "Has IT evolved to the point where it can consider energy efficiency without sacrificing uptime or performance? According to an interview with APC's Richard Sawyer, the answer is yes. The green buildings movement, spearheaded by the USGBC and other organizations has some people thinking about computing infrastructure's impact on the environment. Is it an IT issue or something from C-level executives?"

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This is a first post (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545057)

No chance I failed it.

Re:This is a first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545069)

FP from a CRT or LCD? Don't lie.

Re:This is a first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545093)

Both, really.

Laptop (LCD) with a CRT as secondary monitor. If you want to split hairs the slashdot window was on the CRT.

But (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545066)

Last time I checked my computer was a box full of toxic chemicals

toxic chemicals.. (4, Funny)

PopeAlien (164869) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545232)

Last time I checked my computer was a box full of toxic chemicals

Ah! but what color are these chemicals?

Re:toxic chemicals.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545530)

Very few of them seem to be green, although from what I can tell after some testing, some of them also change colors when you burn the computer. In conclusion, computers have a ways to go before they are completely green. Hmm... the bird sitting on my windowsil just dropped dead, so maybe nature doesn't like these "green computers" after all.

But-Toxic Seed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545382)

"Last time I checked my computer was a box full of toxic chemicals"

Wow! Who knew jerking over your computer was so hazzardous?

Re:But (3, Insightful)

Politburo (640618) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545667)

Right, so because computers contain some toxic substances that are not emitted to the air or ground during normal use, that means we shouldn't attempt to mitigate the environmental impact computer use?

+5, Insightful, but only if you're a simple-minded idiot.

Considering mac mini's take less power than cpus (5, Interesting)

guildsolutions (707603) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545070)

Considering my mac mini takes less power than just my AMD cpu, let alone not talking about the video card, etc... Im really wondering if the push for massive cpu power at the cost of extreme electrical usage is really worth it.

Green everything should be a good thing, but what if the cost of green than reclamation and regeneration?

Re:Considering mac mini's take less power than cpu (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545194)

The mini reminds me of a friend who used an old 68k macintosh as a webserver. her desktop was plugged into mains power but the little web server only used 17w of power to run all day every day, and was on a solar power setup with battery backup. last time I heard from her it had gone down from lack of power only twice in a year.

I bet if it wasnt a home built power system but a professional one with some better power management it could be used 24/7 too

Re:Considering mac mini's take less power than cpu (1)

marc_gerges (561641) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545312)

How would one build something like that? Battery backup with integrated solar recharging looks like a fine project.

Re:Considering mac mini's take less power than cpu (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545375)

Hmm... was the DC from the batteries going straight into the computer (which would assumedly involve messing with the power supply - ucky), or getting first converted to AC and then back to DC (very lossy)?

Re:Considering mac mini's take less power than cpu (4, Interesting)

bfizzle (836992) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545536)

Use a laptop then. The conversion is done on the power strip. Take out the battery and just run off your custom solar power supply then no lossy conversion and you don't have to alter a power supply.

Energy efficiency should mean more profitability (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545104)

I guess they thought calling them "green" buildings would go over better than calling them "blood-thirsty capitalist" buildings.

Power is a big issue (5, Insightful)

btempleton (149110) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545112)

Even without environmental questions. CPUs have been getting faster and faster per dollar you spend on them, but they haven not been getting faster the same way per _watt_ you put into them. And each watt put into them also costs power to cool them.

This applies even in the home. Here in California, land of the 14 cent kwh, a 100 watt PC running 24/7 costs $120 per year in power. In a 3 year life the power is more expensive than the CPU or any other major component except perhaps the monitor, sometimes more expensive than the whole PC.

This also plays big on ideas like getting an old computer and putting linux on it to act as a router or music player or other special functions. You are much better off buying a dedicated box like a WRT54G than making use of the "free" old hardware.

And yes, this does have environmental issues, but you can see the problem right away just by looking at costs.

Who still runs 100-watt computers? (3, Interesting)

Yankel (770174) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545262)

Okay, maybe me.

However, these new |337 modded overclocked mega-boxes with a zillion fans, accelerator cards, lighting, speaker systems, external super-spinning hard drives and 300-watt power supplies use a tad more fuel than that.

I'd guess that with a CRT monitor, you're looking at an annual cost of at least twice that for a standard-vanilla (non modded) desktop, and the mods go up from there.

I agree with the post about using laptop parts, and if I'm correct, that's what some manufacturers are starting to do. They're a bit more expensive, but far more energy efficient.

Re:Who still runs 100-watt computers? (1)

gunnk (463227) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545471)

I have to agree with you. My home system is a 1.0 GHz PowerBook from 2 1/2 years ago. I'm not a big games player. I surf the web, email, and use SSH to get in to the Linux servers I admin at work.

The system is fast, smooth, and rock-solid. The fan is tiny, the system is silent and power consumption is LOW.

Sometimes it's simply a matter of realizing what the right tool is for the job. I don't need a high-end data cruncher at home -- I do enough of that at work.

Re:Who still runs 100-watt computers? (2, Informative)

orderb13 (792382) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545472)

You must be out of touch. A heavily modded computer can easily use 600 watts. My new one came with a 560 watt power supply that can peak at 650.

Re:Who still runs 100-watt computers? (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545596)

Well, the overclocked pimped-out boxes with 14 fans require a lot more, I'm sure, but 99% of computers aren't like that. I'd say the typical plain-Jane desktop computer does average about 100 watts when not doing any sort of major operation.

The monitor will most likely double that, though.

The best thing to do for home comptuers is probably turn on the power-saving options like turning off the monitor/hard drives after 5 minutes of idle, and having the computer sleep after 15 or so.

true true (1)

doorbender (146144) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545654)

it was my HDs that were giving off the most heat before i stepped up to 8X agp. so if you know anything you know i'm not bleeding edge pimped out ... but i was running 17 fans until last year when I did go to 8x agp and then i had to add another. that is all on a 500 watt power supply.

Re:Power is a big issue (4, Interesting)

Shalda (560388) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545352)

I think you've hit the issue right on the head. Your average data-center manager could not care less about whether his server farm is environmentally friendly or not. On the other hand, electricity is a major expense. A dozen racks of 1U servers pulling 100-200 watts each will probably run you upwards of $80k/year. And that doesn't even include the cost of cooling your server room (which will add another $20k or so). Server consolidations and energy efficient servers save money. And that will always be your driving force. If company A says they have a "green" server room, it's just marketing. Their first concern and only concern is the bottom line.

On the other hand, I live in Minnesota, and 5 months of the year, we can use that server energy to heat the rest of the building. :)

Power is a big issue-Thermal Sink. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545498)

"On the other hand, I live in Minnesota, and 5 months of the year, we can use that server energy to heat the rest of the building. :)"

There use to be an alternative energy technique were heat was stored in a thermal tank. During the summer, instead of piping the heat to the outside (air conditioning). It was piped to the tank. When winter hit, the heat was pulled out, lowering the temperture in the tank. So when summer hit, the cycle reversed, and in a way you were pulling cold from the tank.

Re:Power is a big issue-Thermal Sink. (0)

bfizzle (836992) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545638)

Can you store the energy that long efficently?

I would think this would work well in a warm day/ cold night setting but storing heat for 5 months in a big tank of water would need tons of insulation.

My PCs run a Grid app (1)

mollog (841386) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545622)

Both of my Window$ PCs run a grid app. I think grid computing is going to become ubiquitous, so the cost of power per CPU cycle is going to matter.

Laptop-type low power technology will be important. LAN speed matters more than disk speed.

I think that low power, low noise, high peformance PCs will replace the current trend of faster (and more) memory, faster memory speed, faster CPU speed. Individual CPU speed won't be so important in a distributed computing environment.

8am, Day 1: STOP THE WASTE (5, Insightful)

toby (759) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545118)

Most server hardware is massively overspecified. 90% of websites could run on a 486 and nobody would notice a difference - assuming, of course, that you are running a sane, frugal (UNIX family) O/S.

Make enormous energy savings simply by consolidating services...

Stop buying new servers and extend the lifetime of older ones. (Account for the energy costs of manufacture as well as running costs.)

Re:8am, Day 1: STOP THE WASTE (3, Funny)

Radix37 (670836) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545426)

90% of websites could run on a 486 and nobody would notice a difference

Until Slashdot strikes...

Web hosting is a bad example (4, Interesting)

leoc (4746) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545432)

Because they are already there. In fact I'd say 90% of all web sites out there are already running on less than the power of a 486 today. All 3 of my extremely low-volume web sites, for example, are not even running on real hardware. They are all virtually hosted along with hundreds of other sites on a single high power box. Web hosting companies operate on such a slim margin these days that they are the first to take advantage of any technology that saves energy.

Re:8am, Day 1: STOP THE WASTE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545437)

man you are dumb
that 486 uses how much power compared to a moderate new system, guess what A LOT MORE


Re:8am, Day 1: STOP THE WASTE (2, Interesting)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545509)

Most server hardware is massively overspecified. 90% of websites could run on a 486 and nobody would notice a difference - assuming, of course, that you are running a sane, frugal (UNIX family) O/S.

That's why many sites are virtually hosted on a single, more powerful box. It is usually much cheaper to simply buy a newer, more powerful box than to pay the maintenance costs associated with an older server that your vendor may no longer support.

I Couldn't Agree more, But... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545519)

...there is a nasty issue from reality to deal with: in many IT departments, the admins and web masters don't have the ability to deal with these boxes. I work with a large metropolitan library consortium setting and the department is full of reasonably skilled people who are willing to take the lesser pay that libraries can afford. But of the 15 to 20 people they staff, I would say that only five of them have the ability to be able to support something like a Linux server running Apache.

The guy who is their webmaster isn't much of a webmaster, but at least he's got a library sciences degree (this is another problem in many settings: elitism based on credentials). This guy can only drag and drop files using Windows shares from his PC to the web server. Most of what he does is double click on set up programs that install prepackaged, specialized, web applications for libraries. He excels at public relations and takes most of the credit for the work of his staff.

I think that you will find this is common to many environments. Unless there is a way where the admins and webmasters can just double click their way through life, low powered boxes running some Unix variant are going to be impossible to sell. Add to that the fact that many fields are being attacked by companies offereing substandard products that get sold to PHBs as panaceas and you have a no-win situation. The crap software is expected to solve every problem, but brings with it at least 100 times more problems than it solves. However, since the sales and packaging are so slick, it doesn't matter to the PHBs. They have no idea what's really happening in the IT departments.

It's the software vendors' fault (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545123)

They keep bloating up the software requiring faster processors and thus more energy.

Re:It's the software vendors' fault (5, Insightful)

jakel2k (736582) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545230)

Umm... this is only with MS products. Most OSS software can be complied and ran on a 486. MS however adds a lot of overhead on top of what a server needs. A standard web server that is current would require at least 500MHz processor with 256Mb RAM and almost 2Gb of HDD space, (if memory recalls correctly.) Installing the newest debian, BSD, Gentoo or Slack without X, (since this is optional on these systems and a requirment for Windows,) could run on a 486, 32Mb RAM, (more is better,) and about 300Mb of HDD space.

Of course you can install an older version of Windows to save on hardware requirements but you end up sacrificing security updates. Why do that?

My server farm... (3, Insightful)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545124)

Would be racks and racks of laptops! No need to by expensive low-power servers, just pump money into high-end laptops that already run low on power. And the best thing is, I don't have to pay for APC's, as they all come with batteries!

Re:My server farm... (3, Informative)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545274)

And the best thing is, I don't have to pay for APC's, as they all come with batteries!

They do, but my experience with laptops (particularly old laptops) has been that their battery capacity gauges don't like being left on A/C power for a couple of months; either the battery gets discharged, or the chip thinks the battery has no capacity left, and instead of going on battery power when the A/C shuts off.

PS: they're Uninterruptable Power Supplies. Not "APCs". Those are Armored Personnel Carriers.

APC - stands for (1)

sofar (317980) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545579)

American Power Conversion.. the market leader for UPS's (no that is not a transport company).

Re:APC - stands for (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545645)

Actually, it stands for ain't protectin' crap. If you replace power strips periodically you will probably have sufficient surge protection. Decent switching power supplies, if sufficiently over-rated, will ride out most brownouts. Lightning will probably fry your UPS and your PC :P

Re:APC - stands for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545658)

Yes, but as far as I know, APC hasn't become an accepted term for the technology. It's not like xerox or kleenex. I've never heard ANYONE refer to them as "APC's". UPS's? Yes. APC UPS's? Yes. APC's? No! (at least, not until now)

Re:My server farm... (1)

MisanthropicProgram (763655) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545599)

...the chip thinks the battery has no capacity left,....

As an aside, I have a Fujitsu Lifebook from '98. When unplugged with the battery in, it thinks there's no charge in the batery. I have a bad habit of plugging my laptops in whenever I can for various reasons. I wonder if what you said is the problem with this laptop. Hmmm.

P.S. (1)

apparently (756613) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545634)

PS: they're Uninterruptable Power Supplies. Not "APCs". Those are Armored Personnel Carriers or perhaps, American Power Conversion [apc.com] - a maker of UPS systems?

...which would be similar to referring to a box of tissues as a box of Kleenex?

Laptop hard disk drives (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545351)

Have terrible performance, it's why laptops are usually miles slower than a desktop system. Servers usually need the fastest hard disks you can find for them.

Re:My server farm... (1)

aliens (90441) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545454)

Nice idea, but I'm sure you realize it's not that simple. Servers can run high speed harddrives, use ECC RAM, etc etc, laptops are currently not able to sustain 24/7 usage with a acceptable failure rate.

Interview? (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545137)

"Interview?" More like, "opportunity to mention APC's UPS efficiency and then yack about how important that is."

Somewhere, APC's PR firm is quite pleased.

Virtualization is the answer (5, Interesting)

gtrubetskoy (734033) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545145)

We wrote about the environmental benefits of virtualization on our site [openhosting.com] a while back. I even started a little thread [merit.edu] on Nanog about any numbers on relationship of server utilization and the energy cost, but it looked like few people cared. To see how underutilized your Linux server is, do:

# cat /proc/uptime
1122029.25 1101982.75

The first number is the system uptime in seconds, the second is the number of seconds it's been idle. The number above is from my laptop - 98% idle.

Virtualization is also going to be the way hardware vendors will keep the server price up - suddenly very powerful servers will start making sense. The questions is - who will win - Xen, UML or Linux VServer. We're banking on VServer. :-)

Re:Virtualization is the answer (1)

Zemplar (764598) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545263)

"Virtualization is also going to be the way hardware vendors will keep the server price up - suddenly very powerful servers will start making sense. The questions is - who will win - Xen, UML or Linux VServer. We're banking on VServer. :-)"

You forgot about Solaris "Zones" and FreeBSD "Jails"!

I think Solaris 10 will really take off once it's finished later this year and ZFS/Zones/Janus et. al. are tweaked and released...

Re:Virtualization is the answer (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545362)

I like the info about /proc/uptime, thanks!

for me a more-telling stat is:

# uptime
16:42:03 up 314 days, 23:10, 1 user, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00

The reason: even when a CPU is busy doing x number of things, (maxxing out the CPU graph to 100%) it still manages to be "idle" for a good chunk of those CPU cycles. Might have something to do with the way that threads are sliced for multi-tasking.

That's my guess atleast.

Re:Virtualization is the answer (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545443)

I still have to wonder what the real point of virtualizing is. Yes, Microsoft pulled an amazing coup by convincing sysadmins that they should have a separate box for every tiny little service they wanted to run. But Microsoft got away with it because of the crappy design of Windows as a server OS. (i.e. You have to plan for complete system wipes and upgrades, security is such that one service could compromise another, and system software components are such that they happily interfere with each other.)

Back in the land of all things sane (i.e. Unix style OSes), I see no reason why NOT to run a billion services on one machine. As long as you've got spare system resources, why shouldn't you make use of them? Why do I NEED the domain controller, file server, mail server, and ftp server to all be different machines? One big Unix box does the job better, and for a lower up front (and longterm!) cost than lots of tiny Windows boxes!

Granted, there are still some issues that can't be overcome. But which really makes more sense, spending millions of dollars on tons of machines and an army of support staff, or spending a few hundred thousand on a couple of redundant machines and an admin or two to maintain them?

Re:Virtualization is the answer (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545564)

You need to transfer huge amounts of data back and forth to make this happen. This is unlikely for a portable computer (laptop, notebooks, etc.) with a slow network connection, but is already being done in a corporate environment (think clusters) where network throughput is available.
We could come up instead with new schemes of temporarily reducing processor speed to a minimum (say 50MHz) and reducing the time to bring them back to normal speed.

My $0.02C. ;)

"C-Level Executive"? (2, Funny)

dstone (191334) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545167)

I thought I was filling out the cover pages on my TPS Reports properly, but I don't know what a "C-Level Executive" is. Do I have to meet with the Bobs to find out?

Re:"C-Level Executive"? (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545221)

Chief - as in Cio, cTo, ceO, Cfe, cGo*, etc.

*Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted!
Reason: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

Re:"C-Level Executive"? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545329)

I don't know what a "C-Level Executive" is.

It stands for "Chief-Level Executive". It is shorter and more clear to simply say "Chief Executive" than to obfuscate it to "C-Level Executive".

C was their GPA (3, Insightful)

Kyont (145761) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545444)

C is for Chief, as in Chief Information Officer, Chief Executive Office, etc.

In America, it also refers to the grade-point average they barely managed to maintain while drinking their way through college and bonding with their frat brothers' dads so they could get hired onto corporate management tracks at age 23 so they could schmooze their way up to officer-level positions by age 46 and make outrageous salaries "providing leadership" for the rest of us and offering cushy internships to their sons' marginally-literate frat brothers. Not that I'm bitter.

Why I want low power/low heat (4, Interesting)

Kainaw (676073) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545177)

I want a low power/low heat computer because I want to be able to leave it on all the time. Every PC I've had has been both a computer and a space heater. It is hot enough. I want a computer without the space heater. It isn't that I care so much about global warming. I care about the warming in my own house and all the wasted electricity I have to pay for (both in the PC and my extra AC use). The problem is that it is hard to find a low heat PC. I would like to take the motherboard I have out of the case and drop in a low-heat one. But, all I can find are extremely overpriced complete systems with the obligatory Windows pre-install.

Re:Why I want low power/low heat (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545315)

Get a slightly older spec Laptop. Specifically designed to be low power.

PowerPC is lower power than Intel which is lower power than AMD. Transmeta if you can find one. StrongARM is also low power.

Low-power shopping list (4, Informative)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545395)

1) Seasonic S12 series high-efficiency power supply. It makes a VERY noticible difference.
2) Athlon 64 CPU (preferably the new Venice or San Diego core) and Socket 939 motherboard. Enable PowerNOW! power management (current Linux distros like FC3 support it automagically, some BIOSes don't enable it by default). The CPU runs at 800MHz at 1.1V core while idle, jumping to full speed as needed (just like a notebook). Even at full speed power consumption is about half that of an Intel P4 blast furnace. Run 64-bit Linux and get even more work done per watt.
3) Avoid high-wattage video cards like the GeForce 6800 series in favor of 6600GT's. MASSIVE power consumption difference. Depending on how hard-core a gamer you are, the 6600GT's are good enough and a lot cheaper.

See Newegg, etc for the parts.

go to notebooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545422)

This is the exact reason I moved from two desktops with CRTs to two notebooks, one with an external LCD:

cool, quiet! instant on/off (no long boot/shutdowns required and no reason to leave them running 24/7), portability (work in the warmest/coolest part of the house or even go to some place air-conditioned-- that was before I bought a house with central air), far-lower power consumption.

I run Debian unstable on both notebooks.

Gagging on the cost of a notebook? Get a refurbished Thinkpad (particularly a T-series). Worried about playing games or some high-end activity? Well, compare the amount you use your machine for that activity (ie. if it's only a few times per week/month then you can use the big-iron box just for those activities and the notebook for everything else)

Or buy a console for games. Personally, I content myself with the games that come with Gnome.

Re:Why I want low power/low heat (4, Informative)

sffubs (561863) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545451)

If you're more worried about heat than speed, something using a VIA Epia [mini-itx.com] board would do the trick.

Re:Why I want low power/low heat (3, Interesting)

j-cloth (862412) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545452)

As was hinted at above (WRT54G), I cannot recommend enough getting a hackable appliance running an embedded linux.

Check out the Linksys [linksys.com] NSLU2 [slashdot.org] NAS device. It has a couple USB ports, a Netword adapter, a 266MHz ARM processor, 32MB RAM and an active community [nslu2-linux.org] porting apps to it.

A website running on this obviusly couldn't stand up to a slashdotting, but it will work for a personal site and does a good job of streaming media around the house (aside from its primary function as a Samba server)

The thing draws next to no power and could easliy replace many of the space heaters wasting power in the average geek's basement.

Re:Why I want low power/low heat (2, Informative)

javaxman (705658) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545644)

I want a low power/low heat computer because I want to be able to leave it on all the time.

How about something like a Mac Mini, some sort of system with adaptive processor usage and an active cooling fan system? Having a good hardware sleep mode helps, too, unless you're actually running a server or something that needs to be up 24/7... my home computer spends most of it's time 'asleep', but is ready to use pretty damn quickly. I don't reboot short of a system upgrade...

LCD monitors are probably the best thing you can do to reduce heat/power consumption of a PC, as well.

Green Server Farm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545183)

(Formerly Grow Room)

P.S. That skunky smell is ozone. Yeah, ozone. That's the ticket.

no IT people are above everyone else (1)

hildi (868839) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545188)

they dont need to worry about the laws (file stealing), the environment (toxic manufacturing and toxic waste), or the energy market (200 watt toy turned on all day long). thats because IT people have high IQs, are in mensa, and are 'smart'... so any bad things they do to society are cancelled out by their brilliant contributions to progress. you know, sort of like Stalin.

Pretty weak article (2, Informative)

under_score (65824) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545209)

It only really just mentions cost and green. I could say to someone "data centers have huge electrical bills and you can save a lot of money by using energy efficient equipment". That's basically what the article says.

What about specific solutions? Even just general principles? Where would someone look to get help in reducing energy costs? What about alternative energy supplies? Are they reliable enough? Enough power density?

I would have liked an article with a lot more information.

Can you get by with... (2, Funny)

Tenebrious1 (530949) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545237)

That drives initiatives like consolidation. If you have 10,000 servers that are only 20% utilized, can't you get by with 2,000? The answer is probably no. But you might be able to get by with 4,000 and cut your cost in half on the equipment side. And then you start to look at not only the capital investment, but also the expense investment.

What kind of wacky PHB approves the purchase of 10,000 servers when he only needs 4000? And more importantly, is he hiring?

Re:Can you get by with... (1)

gunnk (463227) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545363)

If a boss mismanages resources that badly he might be hiring now... ...but I wouldn't count on long-term employment with that company.

Re:Can you get by with... (1)

Jeff Hornby (211519) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545625)

I worked for a company that was running their internal applications on about 70 servers. They really needed about 20.

There was also a high-end server (~$20,000) in each of the 120 branch locations basically to work as a second router (each location already had an expensive Cisco router). These locations only had a single PC each and could have just as easily had a dial-up modem given the amount of information that came down the pipe.

The reason for all of this hardware? The boss' resume now erads: Managed an installation with 170 servers and over $5 million of hardware ...

Load balancing (2, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545251)

Save money, don't buy more machines, balance the performance more evenly. Condor, Sun Grid Engine etc.

Server power consumption is way too big (3, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545267)

Server software technology keeps getting worse, as .NET, J2EE, Perl, PHP, Flash etc. are deployed for pages that could just as well be static. How many barrels of oil per day go into "ad personalization"?

Re:Server power consumption is way too big (2, Insightful)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545529)

That's not insightful, it's stupid.

American Idol has about 26 million viewers. If each of those TV sets consumes 100 watts, then that's 2.6 million kwh per week. Assuming 25 new episodes per season, that's 65 million kwh, not even counting the broadcast side of things.

That's about 38,000 barrels of oil per year for American Idol.

My point isn't that we should get rid of that stupid show, my point is a lot of things use a lot of energy (a hell of a lot more energy than a few CPU seconds uses). So what?

Change is way too big. Make it stop. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545587)

" Server software technology keeps getting worse, as .NET, J2EE, Perl, PHP, Flash etc. are deployed for pages that could just as well be static."

Translation: This change scares me. Please stay the same.*

*And NO, most of that technology ISN'T used for "ad personalization". The majority isn't even connected directly to the Internet.

c-level for those that don't know (2, Informative)

asoap (740625) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545287)

I had to look it up:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

c-level is an adjective used in a variety of industries to refer "chief" or highest-level executives. The term arises from an urge to group together the alphabet soup of acronyms (CEO, CFO, COO etc.) found in the upper echelons of the corporate world.

Who cares about the environment? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545288)

The Rapture's coming in a few years anyway.

If you disagree with this post, you are against people of faith.

O-level people or IT people? (1)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545295)

Is it an IT issue or something from C-level executives?

It seems like it's an issue that has relevance to both, since executives can likely benefit over the long haul (tax incentives to go green, the PR value, lower power expendatures, etc.), while IT people will be intimately involved in any implementation of green measures that relate to computing.

Hey Aqualung (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545301)

I think we can save more energy by becomin Luddites and stop using lumnix hacking computers.

Then we can allow the verdant greenery to cover the earth once more and never use the damned computers which ravage our hands and minds.

Corporate Waste (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545330)

Pollution might not be a strictly "IT" issue. But neither is "paycheck", and that issue is a top priority for most people in IT.

A Short Story... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545341)

A number of years ago now a company determined that the standard PC power supply is horribly inefficient (say around 30%) and that a better, more efficient p/s applied across the [then] millions of PCs in use would save a significant amount of power nationwide.

They built it.

It cost about twice as much as the existing PC p/s.

Virtually nobody bought it.

End of story.

Re:A Short Story... (2, Informative)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545726)

30% efficient? Your numbers are hugely off. That might have been true waaaaaaay back in the day before switching power supplies, but it's not now. If that were true, a power supply delivering 300 watts to the computer would have to pull a kilowatt from the wall, and two computers would be enough to trip a 15-amp circuit that is so prevalent in newer construction, three computers would be much more than enough to trip a 20-amp circuit.

At normal load, most power supplies are around or above 70% efficient, primarily because the ATX 12V v2.0 specs explicitly call for a minimum efficiency of 70% at full load.

Now, note that even ultra-high-efficiency power supplies, which cost more than just double what a normal power supply costs, only specify 85% efficiency (an increase of 21%), and are reputed to save $17 per year per PC. For realistic usage of 3 hours per day, 10 cents per KW/h, 200 watt draw (which for AVERAGE usage is probably high), you would actually end up saving (365 days * 0.6 kw/h/day * .21 efficiency * .1 dollars/kilowatt/hour)=$4.60 per *year*.

Maybe it's just me, but spending an extra $100-$150 on a power supply that will save just $4.60 per year seems a bit silly.

On the other hand, purchasing a more efficient platform to begin with will save VASTLY more electricity. Replacing that with one of the efficient designs from Via would end up with a total real-world consumption closer to 40-50 watts. Switch from a CRT to an LCD, and you've dropped that from ~100 watts to ~35 watts.

Of course, if we simply increased the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) by just five MPH, we would likely do far, FAR more good not just for the environment, but for world stability as well.


Move the servers (3, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545348)

For many applications, the location of the server is not that important. Servers could be relocated to a cooler climate (avoiding the overhead of air-conditioning) or to an area of lower-cost electricity (e.g., Norway has aluminum smelters that take advantage of low-cost hydropower). At the very least, the server could be collocated at a nearby power plant to reduce transmission losses. One could also look into cogeneration -- using the heat of the server to warm water that is then used for another industrial process.

Green Web Hosting Services (3, Informative)

Guano_Jim (157555) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545429)

If you're not interested in running your own alternative-energy IT setup, you can always outsource it:

Solar Hosting [solarhost.com] uses renewables (i.e. solar, hence the name) to power all their web servers.

Looks like they offer a complete solution package, from web design to hosting.

MIPS per Watt (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545450)

Assuming you are running a portable operating system and applications, it would be useful if vendors quoted the MIPS per Watt that their systems delivered. Back in the days of big iron, people paid close attention to the number of MIPS a system delivered, what their jobs required, and what was the most cost-effective model for their needs.

solar (2, Interesting)

DavidDeLux (650471) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545461)

Its funny that this topic appeared on /. today - I've been considering changing my computers to make them more energy efficient.

My electric bill has been increasing, thanks to having an ever increasing number of servers and workstations chugging away whilst I do development work on them.

I've also moved from Windows to Linux devlopment, and have been shocked at just how good Linux is... good as in how little it needs in terms of hardware:

  • my Windows 2003 systems run P4 processors with 1G RAM, huge hard drives, etc., and throw out quite a bit of heat...
  • My GNU/Linux (Gentoo) systems run on rather modest AMD 2200+ systems, with tiny hard drives

The joke is that the Linux machines are far more responsive than the Windows machine (and how little space the OS and applications occupy - how I hate bloat). Sure, compiling seems slower, but when running code, they just fly.

So, by moving to Linux I don't need high-powered machines, which means the costs are much lower (both capital and running. Being a bit of a geek, I'm probably going to throw the PSU out of the Linux machine and replace it with a DC-DC converter fed by a solar-panel... so my computer running costs will be effectively free... and the capital outlay for the solar panels and DC-DC is rather modest (thing 100s not 1000s of Euros).


Now, if more people switched to Linux, they could use less hardware hungry machines, which need less power (and could easily run from solar).

Bit torrent (2, Interesting)

essreenim (647659) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545465)

I'm surprised no one mentioned bit torrent or distributed computing in general. One nce side effect is that machines are not as idle or dependant on server bandwidth..

Combine solar power with battery backup! (1)

genericacct (692294) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545466)

It's a great idea, that I was hoping the article would expound on. Now I'm tempted to work up the numbers, comparing a full AC-fed battery backup system with a solar-based off-grid power setup. with a separate HVAC system for temperature control, the solar system would completely replace the traditional online UPS. In fact, this would be something I'd love to make money as a VAR selling to people. I'm sure tax advantages and environmental recognition are even possible.

Think closer to home. (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545541)

Is it an IT issue or something from C-level executives?

What a strange question, it's any one's problem when we unnessecarily consume energy or any other non-renewable resource!

With peak oil / peak natural gas problems... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12545552)

...lowering the financial/electrical/environmental cost of operating servers would be a good idea. More than a few peakist/depletionist people subscribe to the Olduvai theory, where an inability to keep up with electricity demands will cause the meltdown of society.

I'm not sure I buy into that, but when push comes to shove, there will have to be ways of running things more efficiently, if we really want to have them in the future. I think the internet, if it's still around, would be very helpful in a post-peak world of lower energy. So yeah, more efficient use of energy by server farms all the way down to PC users would be great. Plus, you won't HAVE to buy 11Ghz cpus with 2Gb graphics cards that require refrigeration units 'cause DOOM 5 AND HALF LIFE 3 AIN'T GONNA GET MADE. Having the 0wnx0rz gaming PC won't be all that helpful (nor easy or cheap to power). Lower powered desktops and laptops will be hip for the first time.

Integration (1)

lheal (86013) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545584)

Customers don't think about their power bills when they're buying computers, typically. They think about how fast their browsers come up or their screens refresh.

Engineers don't think about overall power efficiency when designing a computer, typically. They think about getting the heat out of the components or out of the case, depending on what part of the problem they're tackling.

If the customers wanted more watt-efficient computers, the engineers would optimize for that.

On the other hand, this seems like a great spot for someone to begin selling a thermocouple-based server rack cooler. It's not a perfect solution, but you could probably make a thermocouple cooler powerful enough to run its own LEDs or something :-).

Re:Integration (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545646)

If the rack is passively cooled today, sure, go on and try it. If it's actively cooled, you can only gain in total energy efficiency if you're replacing a bad heat conductor with a better heat conductor, which is also capable of generating power. If you can do that, you should have been able to put an even better heat conductor there in the first place, and by doing so avoiding a few fan revolutions.

(Hint: an unpowered Peltier cooler will make a very bad heat sink. It might be able to power its own status LED, if the LED also happens to have reversed polarity, though.)

Blue Buildings (-1, Flamebait)

Locarius (798304) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545603)

Just don't make the buildings blue or you will have aircraft crashing into them.

Building Architecture (2, Interesting)

NormHome (99305) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545685)

During the good years (gone but not forgotten), I worked in several large office buildings.. Six, eight and ten stories, none of which could be considered new and I can tell you the people who designed them had no idea what the PC computer revolution would bring. With anywhere from fifty to two-hundred PC's to a floor the buildings air conditioning system in each case was totally incapable of handing the kind of heat thrown off by that many PC's. In one building (in the warmer months) they had to have someone in at 5am to crank the air conditioning as low as it would go (the air conditioning system was centrally programed to shut off at night, nothing we could do about it), then as the day went on it would go from 60 degrees with all machines off to just under a 100 by the end of the day.

On my last move from one building to another I was thinking how buildings now should have some kind of special exhaust conduits built into the floor with exhaust ducts on the PC's like a gas dryer. That way the buildings air conditioning system wouldn't have to deal with all that, and in the winter time you could use that heat to help warm the building.

Interesting data point in the article (1)

Frankus (38740) | more than 8 years ago | (#12545731)

The article notes in passing that a watt-year costs about a dollar right now.

But the big glaring omission in the article is cooling costs. Every dollar spent on electricity is probably tripled when you add in cooling costs. You have to buy the air conditioners, maintain them, and supply them with electricity. Then you have to buy a bigger UPS and backup generator to run them. Plus the bigger air conditioners and UPS take up space that you can't use for servers.

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