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Price of Power in a Data Center

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the something-to-think-about dept.

Power 384

mstansberry writes "Much like the rest of the country, IT is facing an energy crisis. The utilities are bracing companies for price spikes this winter and according to experts and IT pros, those prices aren't going to come down any time soon. This is thefirst article in a four-part series investigating the impact of energy issues on IT."

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Folding (1, Flamebait)

turtled (845180) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892482)

Tell everyone to stop folding http://folding.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu] ?

Re:Folding (2, Interesting)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892572)

This is about data centers.
Trust me, the cost of a roomful of PCs running Seti is nothing compared to keeping a 20-ton Liebert running 24x7.

Re:Folding (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892632)

The GP is right though.

If everyone stopped running none essential services during the winter, it would ease the energy burdon.

This applies to lights and tvs and all other hardware as much as it does to software.

Re:Folding (2, Insightful)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892769)

Now that "free" idle cpu cycles are getting more expensive to produce, and with newer processors going into power-save modes when idle, I wonder if we'll see a distributed computing project that buys cpu cycles from it's participants. It would probably only make sense for companies to do something like that, but it could still be cheaper than building or renting your own supercomputer.

Re:Folding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892755)

Grandparent is so under rated! Our servers are running FAH in spare CPU cycles, I know what it means!

Hot Intel chips are big contributor (5, Interesting)

Hulkster (722642) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892483)

I think "crisis" is a bit sensational, but yea, power is a concern and it ain't getting any cheaper. This is certainly not helped by the power consuming (and heat generating) hot chips from Intel. Note that you have to pay for that "twice" since for every BTU they consume in electricity, you have to cool it in a data center. Ironically, Part 1 does not even talk about how the CPU itself is a big issue here ... maybe they'll cover it in the rest of the series. Speaking of which, wouldn't it be better for stuff like this to wait until the series is over before posting on Slashdot?

P.S. The submitter has a nice fishing web site and is holding about a 12" trout on his main page. Nice catch ... but I'd recommend he go on a fishing charter in Seward Alaska [komar.org] if he wants to catch some mongo fish. This trip was a major slayfest and my brother was Captain Crudd [komar.org] who knows how to fish with a beer in his hand.

Yeah, but at least you won't have to (5, Funny)

Tavor (845700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892516)

Run the heat in the winter with Intel chips! Just do batch-processing, or some intense rendering work.

Re:Yeah, but at least you won't have to (1)

esvoboda (166456) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892596)

All hail the Intel Space Heater!

Celebrity endorsement: Paris Hilton with her face painted blue looks into the camera and says, "That's hot!"

Re:Yeah, but at least you won't have to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892679)

You misspelled " HAWT " you ignoranemous!

Re:Yeah, but at least you won't have to (2, Funny)

webzone (924183) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892843)

So true. Last year my house heating system broke and I was able to heat my room just by using my Intel Pentium 4.

Re:Hot Intel chips are big contributor (4, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892544)

The cooling expense isn't as bad as the heating. I think the theoretical efficiency of cooling is 10% of the heat to be removed, where it would take 100W to remove 1000W of heat. In practice, it is about 30%, so it's not as bad as some people think.

One thing I am skeptical of is the need to cool to like 60 degrees F that I've heard (and felt in one room). Good cooling is nice, but I know one guy that says they don't ever see problems until the temperature is above 80F, so businesses can save a lot by not being so freaking cold.

Re:Hot Intel chips are big contributor (5, Insightful)

demigod (20497) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892743)

One thing I am skeptical of is the need to cool to like 60 degrees F that I've heard (and felt in one room). Good cooling is nice, but I know one guy that says they don't ever see problems until the temperature is above 80F, so businesses can save a lot by not being so freaking cold.

I always considered that as buffer for when you loose one of the AC units. That way if it takes all day to get it fixed, your only up to 80F and still OK.

Degrees mean time (1)

Iloinen Lohikrme (880747) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892798)

If problems start at tempetures above 80F, and you keep your temperature about around 75F, you have less time available if and when some system or enviroment changes suddenly making your tempeture rise. If you by default have set the tempeture to 60F, you will get lot more time react before you run to 1) problems and 2) to serious problems. So, to asses risk, I would prefer to having more colder place, than a place being near a limit where after problems arise. Just my two cents.

Re:Hot Intel chips are big contributor (1)

spoonyfork (23307) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892823)

Air flow may be another issue. Standing in a cooridor between racks may feel like 60F but in the rack between boxes it is much higher.

Re:Hot Intel chips are big contributor (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892593)

I saw a speech recently from the director of NCAR, Tim Killeen. NCAR does advanced climate change modelling. According to his speech, they know pretty much every factor now that has a relevant effect on global climate; their only limitation that they are aware of is processing power and data storage. As such, their computing requirements are growing notably faster than Moore's law.

Their current power bill is 40,000$/mo. At their new facility (you can see a design of it in this document [ucar.edu] ), it will be far more. Most of the building will be for computers and associated equipment; the building is being largely designed for dissipating all of the heat. I recall he said it was to consume about 3 MW, so at 0.8 cents/kWh, that would be about 175k$/mo.

As an aside, it was a really fascinating presentation. They showed *their* model of Katrina (which was presented to the White House as an "experimental product"); it was spot on. Very impressive stuff indeed. At one point I asked him about proposed methods to induce global cooling such as dumping iron into iron-deficient waters. He stated that while he hadn't modelled that, their models already take into account natural mineral influxes and their effects on bacteria populations (and thus, the effects of those bacteria on the environment), so they could model that if they needed to. He also pointed me to some newer Vostok core data :)

Re:Hot Intel chips are big contributor (5, Interesting)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892792)

At what point do the heat effects of their computers get folded into the climate simulation parameters themselves?

Re:Hot Intel chips are big contributor (3, Interesting)

c0l0 (826165) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892789)

Believe it or not, but I moved into the apartment from where I'm writing right now last year, and winter's been quite harsh 10 months ago or so here in Austria. I used to heat my ~35m^2 flat with ym Pentium-4-Northwood@3.5GHz-powered PC, and have not figured out how to operate the flat's heating yet... what will turn into an annoying problem soon, cause I swapped the Intel-beast for a low-power AMD box, which is dissipating a whole lot less heat; I'm actually already freezing a little right now :-)

Subtreshold leakage (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892840)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subthreshold_leakage [wikipedia.org]

"Subthreshold leakage is the current that flows from the drain to source of a MOSFET when the transistor is supposed to be off.

In the past the subthreshold leakage of transistors has been very small, but as transistors have been scaled down, subthreshold leakage can compose nearly 50% of total power consumption."

Perhaps the government should have imposed restrictions on the energy consumption of CPUs earlier. All we've done is feeding the CPU's with more power so they become "more powerful".

It's a pity that it's only when CPU's can't get any more efficient that chip manufacturers start researching on "performance per watt"...

First Post (0, Troll)

Big Troller (651808) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892488)

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*
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o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>_\___|_____o
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>_|__/_____a
t_______/\_|___C_____)/______\_(_____>_|_/______t
s______/_/\|___C_____)__TACO_|_(___>_/__\_______s
e_____|___(____C_____)\______/__//__/_/_____\___e
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*
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[995busty.com]

Re:First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892552)

I like the "Taco" just inside the O-ring.

That's some classy ass trolling. And the linked photo is hot too. Mmmm, ass.

Re:First Post (1)

Big Troller (651808) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892601)

Thank U....

Re:First Post (1)

loossy (913249) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892648)

your life ambition has been accomplished, you have achieved a first post on /. you may die now... (please)

Just added a 20amp drop at NTT/verio... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892496)

it was a extra $200 a month. ouchy.

And virtualization may be the answer (5, Informative)

gtrubetskoy (734033) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892508)


We have a page [openhosting.com] on our site with some calculations on how much energy is being saved because we're using Linux VServer and why dedicated servers are not environmentally-friendly (at least not with the current technology - this may change). The numbers are probably off a bit, but they give you some idea.

Also the street price for a 20A circuit in a datacenter is $200-$300, while the cost of a megabit is $100 or less. So a rack of servers that requires two power circuits and pushes 3Mbps (not an unusual scenario) costs twice as much in power than in bandwidth.

And here's another article [eweek.com] on this issue. And another [geek.com] .

Re:And virtualization may be the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892654)

Well you just blew any savings to hell and gone by posting a link here on /.

Re: Linux and power management (4, Insightful)

grqb (410789) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892658)

I bought myself a watt meter to measure the power of some of my home electronics. So I tested my friend's laptop, it was a Dell, 15 inch monitor P4. Under linux the laptop was drawing 50-100watts (which is very high for a laptop), under windows it was drawing from 30-50 watts. Linux on desktops has the same power management as windows on desktops though.

Re: Linux and power management (2, Interesting)

wmshub (25291) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892707)

It sounds like Linux was running the laptop at a higher clock rate. Many laptops have a configurable clock rate, and will turn the rate down when power savings are needed (for example, when AC power disappears and the laptop switches to battery power).

A little fiddling with the power controls of Linux would probably get it to the same power consumption as Windows. While you measured something real, it's probably a configuration issue more than a builtin Linux vs. Windows difference.

Re:And virtualization may be the answer (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892698)

If you're drawing 20A and only serving up 3 megabits, you're doing something seriously wrong.

Re:And virtualization may be the answer (0)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892727)

Your data is about 2 yrs out of date. For example a 2X dual-core Opteron system from Sun pulls about 500-550W per sever unit (CPU, Disk, Memory, Fans, I/O Cards included), so thats 550/4 or about 137.5W per "CPU" (per CPU since that is the power hog). I heard SGI is coming out with water cooled units which may cut costs as chilled water loops can be cheaper (water carries more heat than air) and more efficent than forced air in the long run (but hell to pay to install and if it ever leaks). There are options to lower bills, use interruptible power such that when overall demand hits a certain level your power is reduced (better have standby generators), or you can do hedging in the market on natural gas prices, you can recycle the heat from the servers to heat the building in the winter, you can use high-efficiency A/C units. The biggest help would be a power-saving feature for the CPUs that when idle they go into a sort of sleep mode and turn off some parts to save power, but I don't recall ever seeing this option on anything but Disk Drives.

Energy price predictions (5, Interesting)

grqb (410789) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892513)

Energy prices are going to hurt everybody.

From here: [thewatt.com]
"EIA expects energy expenditures will be 18% higher this winter compared to last winter, which will be 8.3% of the annual gross domestic product, a record since 1987 when it was 8.4%."

And for those of you who want to find a way to save energy: Here's 60 Tips To Save Energy This Winter [thewatt.com]

Unctuous (0, Offtopic)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892523)

Oil still costs about $15 to pump out of the ground, but instead of the $25 price before we invaded Iraq, it's pushing $70+ as a "permanent high". Maybe Congress and the White Hosue can exercise some accountability for their totally failed energy policies (including sending us to war) by stopping the price gouging the oil corporations are abusing us with. I know those corporations are their best bribers^Wcontributors, and their foreign sources are our best traitors^Wallies, but Americans will vote on the entire House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate in elections next year. We might be willing to put up with a lot of BS on faith, but there's no denying we're not getting the spoils of all of our "superpower" status.

Re:Unctuous (2, Insightful)

wilsonjd (597750) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892565)

Have you ever heard of supply and demand? If we fix oil prices at $25 per barrel, the oil companies will just sell it to China at $70, and we will have NONE. If China convinces Venesula to sell them all their oil, we will see $100 oil very soon.

Re:Unctuous (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892660)

First, it's Venezuela. Second, even if that were true, which it is not, oil is a commodity. If Venezuela sells all its oil to China, that will just free up oil elsewhere in the world.

Re:Unctuous (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892821)

Uh, this is not true. China's demand is new demand. As demand increases, and supply does not, what happens? Note: This is not a bonus question, it is the entire quiz. Granted, production IS increasing, but I don't think that China's demand is going to fail to outstrip it dramatically as they haul themselves into the modern age.

Re:Unctuous (0, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892686)

I didn't say we should fix oil prices. I said we shouldn't tolerate price gouging. We establish a government to protect people and markets. Right now the market is gamed by a production cartel, a wholesaling cartel, and a corrupt government driving up the prices.

These prices are high because of risk, not insufficient supply. Production is still increasing, and hasn't even begun to reach peaks. If we keep trying to depose the democratically elected president of Venezeula, we'll see more than our 4th largest supplier neighbor shipping around the world to China, our enemy. If we keep prosecuting and provoking unnecessary wars in the Mideast, those risks will all combine. Factor in the $250BILLION+ that the Iraq War costs, and the amount of waste the US Federal energy policy generates is vaster than what we're actually using. The government is already controlling these prices ever higher. We need to stop them, and force them to use our power in our national interest, instead of sacrificing us in the name of our national interest.

Re:Unctuous (1)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892609)

Oil still costs about $15 to pump out of the ground, but instead of the $25 price before we invaded Iraq, it's pushing $70+ as a "permanent high".

Supply and demand.

Re:Unctuous (2, Interesting)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892750)

Cause demand this year is so much higher than demand last year at this time. Seriously, prices shot up "because of Katrina." They should have plunged back down when the refinaries came back online but they only gave in a little. I imagine a few american based refinary companies are making huge increases in profit this year compared to last. As I recall Exxon/Mobile was reporting 300% profit gains this year. I also seem to remember many a CEO from refinary companies mentioning how Rita would be the biggest disaster to hit America causing yet another increase in gas prices.

I'd love the government to step in and set things straight but I don't see that happening anytime soon. For now we'll either have to bare the pricing or start pushing alternatives which have been available for a good long time now.

Re:Unctuous (1)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892832)

Seriously, prices shot up "because of Katrina." They should have plunged back down when the refinaries came back online but they only gave in a little.

You do realize that US is "borrowing" 2 million barrels a day from the EU, and that many other commodities are experiencing record highs due to the explosion in Asian economic growth.

Re:Unctuous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892611)

Oil still costs about $15 to pump out of the ground

Where did read that? The cost of production varies widely. In Saudi Arabia, it costs less than $5 a barrel. In the Alberta tar sands, it costs more than $30 a barrel.

Re:Unctuous (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892703)

"About $15" is approximate. The industry average was actually about $12:bbl when I researched it in 2002. I'm just building in inflation and a margin of error.

Re:Unctuous (1)

Kobun (668169) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892635)

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=125653 0 [go.com]

Pebble bed reactors (with built in steam cracking!), biodiesel & ethanol, a sprinkling of wind energy and solar where appropriate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor [wikipedia.org]

It warms my heart to know the ball is rolling on these things, and more. I just have to keep pushing, but another set of hands makes the work lighter. Everyone?

Re:Unctuous (1)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892656)

There's not a whole lot we can do about the price short of bombing Vienna, and somehow I doubt even Bush would do that.

Re:Unctuous (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892759)

"Exxon Mobil profit leaps on oil prices" [go.com] : "Exxon's quarterly profit was up 75 percent from a year earlier, and revenue rose 32 percent to more than $100 billion [...] $9 billion net profit reported on Thursday by Royal Dutch Shell Plc [...] Exxon said it did not see the point of a windfall profits tax ".

Windfall profits tax. To say nothing of a carbon deposit tax.

Re:Unctuous (1)

UOZaphod (31190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892667)

Yes, in an ideal world the U.S. government could "stick it to the man" and pass all kinds of new laws to try to force gas prices to be lower.

However, we as a nation are really at the mercy of the oil industry, and the people in the government know this.

Recently, a bill (the Senate version) was squashed that would have encouraged the oil industry to build new refineries. The opponents claimed it would relax too many environmental regulations, and that oil companies have been voluntarily shutting down refineries. Perhaps this is true, but now the oil industry has been handed an excuse not to build new refineries.

How do we force the companies to sell oil at a cheaper price? Does the government rush in and take control of the companies? We can pass laws that "encourage" alternative energies, but does that reduce the cost of oil right now?

Re:Unctuous (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892808)

We have existing price gouging and windfall profits laws to protect the consumers who define the market. We're spending and additional $QUARTER-TRILLION in Iraq, which is driving up prices and thereby profits. We have put the entire country's security, military and economic, at risk for these oil corporations, and they're reaping unprecedented profits, even atop last year's unprecedented profits. We're sacrificing economic growth and people's lives. We need to make the oil corporations share the cost. Corporate welfare that raises prices for extra profits is a double whammy that we must stop immediately.

Re:Unctuous (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892791)

It's not only that the oil barons are their most athletic supporters, but that they are oil barons - notably the bushes and cheney. War in the middle east means OPEC raises prices, which means the U.S. oilmen raise prices, and everything is rosy for the oilmen.

Re:Unctuous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892811)

Actually, if you're concerned about global warming and runaway energy demands, shouldn't high oil prices be a good thing? The more expensive a commodity is the more people will seek alternatives or reduce their usage. Taxing oil companies or fixing prices doesn't help achieve either of those goals (well, taxation might, if it's all directed to energy research... a mighty big 'if').

intel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892525)

so why would intel have new chips that suck so much power. check my site [therightcoast.net] !

Solution? (3, Funny)

exi1ed0ne (647852) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892530)

Pedal faster!!

Re:Solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892631)

And add more hamsters!

Moore's law? (4, Insightful)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892533)

"It's the other side of Moore's Law," Sneider said. "As the cost of [buying] these machines decreases, the cost of powering and cooling them increases."

I don't agree with this. How power efficient was Eniac? Also, my laptop lasts much longer the one I had a few years back. I think we're making progress on the power front, but the demand for computing power is attracting more and more dollars, the power cost is largely insignificant with regards to the return on investment.

Re:Moore's law? (3, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892567)

I don't agree with this. How power efficient was Eniac?

Before, or after debugging [wikipedia.org] ? :P

Re:Moore's law? (1)

GenKreton (884088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892578)

How can you apply Moore's law to a vacuum tube driven computer? I'm fairly certain his law only applied to transistor based computers.

I blame software bloat (1)

irritating environme (529534) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892539)

How much power loss is due to ludicrous numbers of layers of processing that go on in modern OSes and applications?

Time for the OS vendors to realize that smaller, efficient code footprints will save money in real world terms.

Then again, I code in java for a living (Ducks)

Isnt it... (1)

mayhemt (915489) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892540)

Because of Global warming?

Coal Accounts for 55% of Generated Electricity (2, Insightful)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892543)

And the cost of extracting a ton of coal hasn't changed much from 1995 to 2005. But it shows what a sham commodity trading is - the price of a ton of coal (because it is 'energy' related) is traded relative to the price of a barrel of oil or the cost of a cfu of natural gas.

All this does is further underline the boom/bust cycles of the energy business and how it negatively affects the economy.

Re:Coal Accounts for 55% of Generated Electricity (2, Insightful)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892639)

When demand increases, price will increase regardless of supply cost. Commodity trading isn't a sham, it's just the way the economy works. If oil and coal were mandated to be sold at a constant price regardless of demand, the supply would run out quickly as people would have no incentive to conserve or to explore for new sources.

This is A Good Thing (2, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892736)

Capitalism is all about supply and demand and the cost of buying A vs B vs doing without.

A barrel of oil may cost $x to pump out of the ground, deliver, process, and burn and coal may cost a fraction of that for the same energy-equivalent.

But it doesn't matter. As long as the demand at either of those prices exceeds supply, the open-market price of both will be about the same and will be higher than the "production" costs.

When the demand is between the two "production costs" that one will be heavily favored, possibly knocking the more expensive one off the market entirely until prices rise or production costs go down.

By the way, even within the same commodity, you have this effect:
Oil in some places is dirt-cheap to produce. In others it is so expensive to extract that nobody bothers unless they think oil prices will stay high enough to make it worthwhile. But once it gets out of the ground, it's just oil.

Re:Coal Accounts for 55% of Generated Electricity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892826)

And the cost of extracting a ton of coal hasn't changed much from 1995 to 2005. But it shows what a sham commodity trading is - the price of a ton of coal (because it is 'energy' related) is traded relative to the price of a barrel of oil or the cost of a cfu of natural gas.

Why shouldn't it be related? Oil, coal and natural gas are all used to generate electricity (amongst other things). Customers generally don't care how the electricity was generated, just the price.

If you sold coal, wouldn't you want to sell at the highest possible price? It's called supply and demand. If you sold anything, you would want to get the highest possible price.

All this does is further underline the boom/bust cycles of the energy business and how it negatively affects the economy.

And instead of intelligent energy policy from the US Congress (increasing the average vehicle fuel economy, which hasn't changed in years), we get idiocy (lengthening the daylight saving time). Increasin the average fuel economy by 1 MPG translates into billions.

First of many? (2, Funny)

BrianGa (536442) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892546)

This is thefirst article in a four-part series investigating the impact of energy issues on IT.

Does this mean three slashdot dupes forthcoming?

A solution to winter price spikes: (3, Interesting)

n3umh (876572) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892564)

Materials needed: Fans. Flexible duct. Duct tape (of course).
Procedure: Place fans in datacenter. Tape duct to fans. Route duct to office spaces.
Results: Save money on heating and cooling bills.....

Energy is costing more in all areas (2, Interesting)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892569)

Just on the cusp of hydrogen fuel cell techonology becoming available, we're about to be hit hard with spikes in both gas and electricity. The SK crown corporation SaskEnergy asked the rate review panel for a 41% increase, but the review panel recommended "only" 27%. Auto gas prices have soared as high as $1.20/litre but have settled back at about a $1 CDN. Natural gas though is what scares Canadians, since most heat their homes with either that or electricity.

Sask Power is running advertising imploring people to unplug their underused second fridge, turn off their computers when not in use, and upgrade to LDC screens to save about 66% the power expense over CRT technology. They claim savings of $50/year if you turn off your computer when it's not in use.

I wonder... (0)

sootman (158191) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892571)

... did they get the idea for this article from Cringely's most recent column? [pbs.org]

Power Hungry (1)

caese (925123) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892573)

The end user might actually benefit from this if it spurs some more innovation in the low-power computing sector. We as computer users take our power consumption for granted, IMO, when there are places in the world lacking the electricity for a simple light bulb.

In general this will pass along additional costs to the end user, similar to how the price of oil adds cost to our everyday consumables. I am curious as to how many tons of coal/gas/uranium or whatever power source you fancy is produced by us computer users en masse. I think an answer to this would stagger us all.

Re:Power Hungry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892627)

We as computer users take our power consumption for granted, IMO, when there are places in the world lacking the electricity for a simple light bulb.

That's because they're lacking the money to pay for that electricity. If they could afford electricity, then utility companies would be happy to install the appropriate capacity. Conserving power in the developed world isn't going to magically raise people out of poverty in other parts of the world.

Re:Power Hungry (1)

caese (925123) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892702)

The only reason WE can afford power is because we have created a system of development, though imperialism and colonialism that systematically procured every bit of possible wealth from the Global South and transported it north - think resources and labour. The current capitalist model, in which rich northern companies exploit the fruits of the planet is no different. The fact is that foreign companies don't give a shit about the local people, and they end up getting fucked, not helped.

Furthermore I made no inclination about the merits of low power devices 'saving us from poverty' and you clearly misinterpreted my thoughts, while at the same time displaying how little you actually know about the world. Poverty is not going to go away with the flick of a light bulb, it's going to take a concerted effort from the international community. And more importantly, a shift from our current Laissez-Fair system of government to a more regulated system in which companies are accountable to the people and to society.

Re:Power Hungry - laptop solution (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892672)

I've never been a big fan of laptops, I enjoy installing new video cards too much to like an un-upgradable lappy. But with power the way it is, and the nearly silent operation of a laptop, I really have to consider it. I use my computer for TV, and music, and the fans are getting so loud along with the hard drives, that I just don't think I will go the desktop route again. Even if I don't tote my laptop around and instead use it as a "silent" and low power-use desktop, I'm beginning to think it's a better investment than another desktop.

Has anyone bought a laptop-like desktop [without an integrated LCD for instance] and been satisfied playing either games or watching TV/DVD on it?

It's not the increase, it's the density (2, Insightful)

pcguru19 (33878) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892589)

HP just came out with multicore half-height blades. Their latest requirements are 30 amp, three phase power per PDU for a blade rack, with 4 pdus/rack for redundancy. That's enough power service to cover 3 modern 3000 square foot homes when you factor the energy back to 240 volts.

Getting the power to something this silly isn't the pain. COOLING something that consumes 14KW in a 4 square foot space is the challenge anyone in data center management faces. Both HP and IBM have come out with the "innovation" of heat exchangers that run off your chilled water loop. Some of us have been there and done that and don't want to try it again.

Every time someone comes to me selling density and physical consolidation, I throw them out on their ass. It's cheaper to just buy or build more traditional raised floor space and run good old fashioned 6, 4, or 2u servers than to cool a bunch of blade racks.

Re:It's not the increase, it's the density (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892710)

"It's cheaper to just buy or build more traditional raised floor space and run good old fashioned 6, 4, or 2u servers than to cool a bunch of blade racks."

Unless you're in Manhattan. Or Boston. Or LA. Or Miami. Etc.

Re:It's not the increase, it's the density (1)

pcguru19 (33878) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892787)

With fibre running everywhere, just buy a data center in iowa to house the stuff and pay a few folks to rack and run the hands-on stuff. You're in a big city for the people to administer the servers, not to house the servers. If I had my pick, I'd put the data center in Reno. Worst case is if you have to show up to work on the stuff, you get to gamble and visit the Chicken Ranch while you're gone.

Re:It's not the increase, it's the density (1)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892737)

Both HP and IBM have come out with the "innovation" of heat exchangers that run off your chilled water loop. Some of us have been there and done that and don't want to try it again.

So what's wrong with that option? It seems like water cooling would be the next logical step.

Heat (1)

suitti (447395) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892594)

Much of the energy used is for air conditioning. One might think that this would be easy for data centers in Michigan, but I've worked for places that heat the building and air condition the data center in January. One place had the data center a/c die, and a box fan in a window allowed everything to run. A box fan has to be cheaper to run than a/c. So what we might see is smarter environmental control. At least in the winter, it makes sense to run outside air in, and use the waste heat to heat the rest of the building.

Perhaps data centers could be moved to Canada.

Re:Heat (1)

James McP (3700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892731)

Unfortunately, you can't reliably use outside air. While moisture is not typically a factor during winter, pollution is. Many data centers have particulate sensors in their fire system which will go crazy if a bus goes by. And it just dirties up the place, possibly voiding the customer's contracts.

Second, you need the pressurized cooling system. Yeah, your window AC may keep the room at 60F but if the cabinets are expecting cool air to be pumped up through the floor to be vented out the top you can write off that rack of bladeservers. Even in centers with wire-mesh racks, local heat deltas can be boggling and a lack of adequate airflow makes it worse.

Re:Heat (1)

pcguru19 (33878) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892741)

Short-term this would work in Michigan, but humidity control would kill you long-term if you tried to use 15-30 degree air in the winter. You'd have to put in steam plants from hell to stay in that 40-60% range that's required for data centers.

  Data Center designers have taken advantage of using outside air for cooling in northern nevada, northern california, oregon, etc. where the normal temp is in the 40-60 range; but they always build the cooling system out to handle the entire load. Server Virtualization and smart purchasing will keep you out of this mess for the time being.

Re:Heat (1)

Sosarian (39969) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892802)

Canada has fairly normal temperature ranges in the summer requiring standard air conditioning.

It's about time & apples to oranges (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892619)

FTA:"Historically, I haven't managed the electric bill. But now we're aware and interested in it," Doherty said. "If I told my boss that my staff wanted a 27% increase [in pay], I'd be downstairs on the carpet."

First, it's good that he's paying attention to the electric bill now. But he should have been paying attention to it in the past (last year saw a spike in prces, too). TCO and all that. Of course, electricity may be negligible compared to other costs, depending on their setup.

Second, it's highly unlikely that a 27% boost to electricity costs is anywhere near as much as a 27% boost in salaries. Furthermore, salaries are more controllable internally.

Good for him to point it out though.

Of interest, one of my company's vendors has been assessing us a fuel surcharge for a couple years now (though shipping & distribution is not a core function of theirs). They are now adding a "utilities" surcharge to their invoices... due to management relationships, we're stuck with this vendor, who has raised our effective rates 18% in the past two years. Anyone else have a similar experience?

One question (3, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892623)

Shouldn't there be an initiative to certify computer systems as "low energy", i.e. using low power processors, come with LCD monitors, etc?

Just as the state of Massachusetts chose to use F/OSS to save in office software, why not asking government offices to replace CRT's with LCD monitors?

Re:One question (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892729)

What a great idea! I wonder why nobody's [energystar.gov] ever thought of doing that?!

Re:One question (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892740)

It's called Energy Star, but it doesn't (yet) apply to servers.

Not new (1)

JonN (895435) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892637)

This isn't really a new problem, as you can see from this article [infoworld.com] dated January 5, 2001. From the article: Amazingly, a large hosted-server operation can average the same power usage as a steel manufacturing plant.

I didn't see anyone.... (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892646)

mention that much of the power loss and heat generation is due to thousands of power supplies in each data center. If data center racked computers used DC power, the power conversion takes place in one area, and only heat generated by power usage is generated in the data center. This reduces power losses due to multiple AC/DC conversions, as well as the heat generated in those conversions. Less heat means less AirCon is needed, so less power there too. This is such a simple thing to do as well. Most huge telecom or carrier grade equipment is buit for -48vdc operations. The ROI for running DC data centers is even money in very few months of operation. The equipment already exists, so its not new, just needs to be implemented.

Additionally, when your data center power is DC, the AC source can be from anywhere, meaning that if you find a local generation facility that is cheap to run, you can reduce the amount of energy that you have to purchase from the grid.

The trick to making aircon units efficient is not generating the heat in the first place. Despite what CPU heat there is, power conversion accounts for huge amounts of data center heat.

Try replacing CRTs with LED displays too, less heat generated, less power used, less aircon required.

IMHO, replacing CPUs to save energy is the least 'bang for buck' energy savings thing you can do, even if it is popular to talk about. The only place it really matters to people is in laptops.... The data center is a place they could care less about CPU heat... for the most part.

Re:I didn't see anyone.... (2, Informative)

nixer (692046) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892709)

Check the power numbers on Intel CPUs - they exceed 100w for all of the enterprise stuff. In a dense rack using blade servers the number of processors can exceed 100 (and there are configurations of around 200). Do the math and you see than this is 10KW. If you look at the specs for a typical set up, the input for this kind of kit is around 20 to 24KW - so around 40-50% of the heat is the CPUs.

Re:I didn't see anyone.... (1)

wmshub (25291) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892805)

Be very careful when you talk about reducing the number of power supplies. DC current has much higher losses in the wire since it is much lower voltage (thus higher current for the same power), so if consolidating the power supplies lead to having long DC cables running around your machine room, you'll end up adding to head and wasted power instead of reducing it.

In addition, computer motherboards need pretty clean DC power. Longer cables, and more devices connected to them, will lead to less accuracy in the voltage and more spikes and dips.

Overall, sticking a huge transformer+rectifier in the middle of your machine room and running DC power to all your equipment probably isn't a good idea.

Voltage and amperage issues (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892828)

If you had one power source dumping all the voltages most computers need, you'd have a lot of small wires or several very fat ones. I'm not saying it's not do-able it's just something to consider.

If your main power supply gave you -48vdc, you can get away with smaller wires but you'll need dc/dc transformers to bring the voltage down.

It would help solve the heat problem though.

TANSTAAFL.

Liquid Crystal Display, not Light Emitting Diode. (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892829)

I made a typo a few minutes ago and said "LDC", but LED is the wrong technology. It's the kind of display used in clock radios with red blocky displays, if you aren't sure about the difference.

My power company is advertising a power savings of 66% by switching to an LCD from CRT montior. And they are telling people that a screen saver does not power down a CRT so they are still paying for power while it's on.

performance/Watt (1)

kiick (102190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892665)

... is going to be the new benchmark. Sun is already heading in that direction with their low-power AMD offerings, and even more so with the new
Niagara systems. When the other vendors get their acts together, expect them to follow suit.

Any time soon? (3, Interesting)

MirrororriM (801308) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892674)

and according to experts and IT pros, those prices aren't going to come down any time soon.

Let's be realistic, they won't come down...ever. If they can get another 20% (example) out of you this year, do you think they're going to drop it 20% next year after the "crisis"? 10% even? No way. Just like any other energy business that is at a near-monopoly level (gasoline), they can raise it whenever they feel like it and blame it on whatever they want. What are you going to do, go to the competition? In the area I live in (Midland, Michigan) and the surrounding cities (Saginaw, Bay City, Flint, etc) we get ONE choice for gas and electricity - Consumer's Energy. That's it. You don't like their service or prices? Tough shit. You're stuck. There have been "alternative companies" in the past, but all they do is resell energy for Consumers Energy - it's all going through the same pipes and wires.

It sucks, but that's the way it is.

Overpowered boxes, underpowered apps (1)

sticks_us (150624) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892682)

This is subject to debate, but experience having worked in a datacenter has shown me that one of the problems is that of all the computing power that occupies a typical datacenter, 90% of it is redundant overhead that never gets used. Still, these servers just sit there, sucking electricity and requiring expensive HVAC to maintain.

I knew a wise man once who said that in theory, if your CPU usage isn't 100% all the time, you're wasting money. This is at least partially true. We have many many servers who are idle most of the time, and even at "peak periods" the load average barely budges. One of the services we support is RAM-heavy, but uses almost *no* CPU whatsoever, still, our clients specify pipe-hitting four-way boxes with large disk arrays--one box per service. Ludicrous!

By combining several services on a single box, you can eliminate the need to host extra/redundant servers, and save a bunch of cash in the process. Sure, it may be less convenient to administer, but let's face it, folks, any move toward consolidating deployments in the datacenter is only going to save space/money.

Now, that being said, most people could care less, thinking "hardware's cheap" and they'll just throw dozens of boxes at the problem and forget about it. Maybe that will change, maybe not...

Free Energy Source! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13892692)

Burn The Irish! The alcohol flames alone are enought to push the global mean temperature up a few notches! Filthy Beggars!

Blame XML and Java (1, Insightful)

fuzzy12345 (745891) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892700)

I've been in the coding game a long time, and a lot of the new technologies in the last few years are just insanely wasteful of computer power. Computers are, of course, supposed to releive humans of drudgery, and this includes programmers just as much as the clerk/minions that are our end-users.

Nonetheless, having the computer repetitively recompute the exact same answers (parse that huge XML config file! JIT-compile that Java app, AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN!) is an exercise in keeping your hardware vendor happy, and a sign of laziness on the part of programmers. Who among us doubts that one AMD64 with a few gigs of RAM could, if programmed properly, calculate the payroll for the entire USA every night?

electricity and heat (1)

illuminix (456294) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892706)

A company I used to work for piped the heat from the datacenter to the rest of the building, and apparently saved a lot of money.

At home, my office is upstairs. I close all of the upstaris heating vents during the winter. My computers keep it warm enough. (And in Minnesota, that's saying something!)
 

Country? (1)

paulhar (652995) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892722)

Good to know that it's only the USA that has any concerns over use of power, global warming and all that.

God Bless America!

Well DUh!! (1)

jdehnert (84375) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892724)

Hmm, I submitted a question about low power severs for the home just yesterday (No Yea/Neigh just yet), so I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one looking at this.


If I look at my own guilty fact sheet, I can see that I'm guilty of the following...

  1. Getting high powered servers all of the time.
  2. Not consolidating services enough.
  3. Not encouraging enough of an emphasis on power consumption.

On the plus side, I have converted to LCD's whenever I nave needed to replace a monitor. It's a start, but a small one.


Since I have been looking at low power home servers for myself, I have started to look at the power used by the servers at work. There is allot of crap, mostly Windows stuff, that I run on solo servers. I'm sure I need no explain the reasoning behind that, but it's clear that it's not really efficient.


We have been looking at VM Ware and Xen with an eye towards reducing the number of hardware devices we need to have space and cooling and spare parts for, but The power consumption savings alone may be enough to tip the balance with Management.


Has anyone done a nice comparison of power usage after smushing 7 or 8 systems into 2 VM Ware boxes?

Dying of heat (1)

char1iecha1k (888756) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892738)

Perhaps some planning needs to go into the building and location of these centres. Use the heat dissipation in a secondary system, place the actual building in a cooler climate or in a north facing direction etc, etc. These may be small things but when running huge systems it all adds up. The place i work has its servers and coms equipment located in a porta-cabin! Boy does it get hot.

Public vs. Private utilities-Which is cheaper? (1)

Safe Sex Goddess (910415) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892739)

There are a couple of interesting articles at PBS.ORG on this. There is one about private vs. public utility companies [pbs.org] .

My own personal opinion is that this is something we've brought upon ourselves. Both citizens and corporations who are not in the electricity business.

I've never understood why some industries allow things to happen that cause themselves to suffer while a small set of industries make enormous profit.

No Problem! (1)

kid_icarus75 (579846) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892744)

All of our servers run on reliable, inexpensive, sweet beautiful coal!

Peak Oil is here (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892775)

I think this entire subject needs to be prefaced with a discussion about Peak Oil. Several books have been written about the impending energy crisis, most notably, Beyond Oil : The View from Hubbert's Peak [amazon.com] .

What really interests me is the usual human nature reaction to this. Government, business and the public at large seem to think that their "wish", that things continue as they always have continued, will ensure a continued cheap and easy to access energy supply.

Sure, Coal and Nuclear can and probably will supply our forseeable electrical needs, but what about transportation? Jet fuel, overseas shipping, etc?

Solar power baby (1)

dindi (78034) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892809)

As some predicted the arab peninsula being covered in solar panels for the time we are completely out of oil, I would make a note on solar power hosting as a sooner or nearer future.

I can imagine a huge installation in the middle of the desert running all the it buried below ground level in the cold, using minimum cooling energy, one level up, the staff and offices, using natural light channeled in thru tricky optics, airconditioned in natural ways and using solar power....

OK, I am an idiot, but It would just make sense, besides I have something with warm places..... I know I could save a fortune just with a few computers running at my house using the 12 hours of straight sunlight in the dry season, and even save some in the rainy season.

I also have to mention that a lot of money goues out of the window for cooling purposes in computing environments so just making the installations a little bit more energy-sane would make a serious saving on cooling energy (e.g. I have seen server rooms in the most stupid locations, where cooling cost 5x + more).

Does anyone have ever made a calculation (or have a link to) on how many square meters of solar panels would power a given server/worstation in different light conditions?
OK, do not flame I wrote, a given workstation because old pII-233 with LCD is different from 2 21" crts and a 4-proc renderer with 10 disks.

Power consumption in the US (3, Insightful)

fejikso (567395) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892827)

As an international student currently living in the US, it is quite shocking to see how Americans waste electric power. It is simply not logical why people have to bring sweaters to be comfortable during the scorching summer (because the thermostat is set too low) whereas in winter, buildings become furnaces.

I won't even get started on the obscene generation of trash.

Hopefully these crises well force Americans to find ways of making themselves more efficient.

Interns (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#13892844)

Hey, we all have interns dont we? Give them a exercycle with a generator attached.. Problem solved.
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