Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Google Calls For Power Supply Design Changes

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the reality-would-you-mind-shifting-a-bit-for-us dept.

377

Raindance writes "The New York Times reports that Google is calling 'for a shift from multivoltage power supplies to a single 12-volt standard. Although voltage conversion would still take place on the PC motherboard, the simpler design of the new power supply would make it easier to achieve higher overall efficiencies ... The Google white paper argues that the opportunity for power savings is immense — by deploying the new power supplies in 100 million desktop PC's running eight hours a day, it will be possible to save 40 billion kilowatt-hours over three years, or more than $5 billion at California's energy rates.' This may have something to do with the electricity bill for Google's estimated 450,000 servers."

cancel ×

377 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Big ego department (-1, Flamebait)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206603)

So now Google thinks it's an expert in Electrical Engineering. What next, medical advice?

No... (5, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206641)

google hires experts on Electrical Engineering to figure out how to reduce the power bill on those 450,000 servers. Hell, I'm all for it. Less power means less heat means quieter fans (w/o spending an arm/leg on an Antec Sonata or whathaveyou).

Re:No... (4, Interesting)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206793)

Considering how many machines Google has to maintain, I'm surprised they just don't order motherboards and power supplies to their own spec, and then allow the mfrs to distribute the design to others who request it. They're big enough and have enough whuffie that they can start a trend all by their lonesomes.

Re:No... (4, Informative)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207037)

After reading Google's blog entry [blogspot.com] on the subject, I'm left puzzled by their call for a new standard with no further details, especially since it seems they're already using the technology. A power supply is simple enough, but I'd like to see what sort of strategy they're using for voltage conversion on their motherboards. What connectors are they using for power?

The funny thing is, this idea is relatively old, though AC was used instead of DC. Remember the Imsai 8080? The S-100 bus used an 18V AC supply, and each card had its own DC conversion and voltage regulator(s).

Re:No... (2, Interesting)

MoxFulder (159829) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207011)

Yeah, Google hires experts on anything pretty much, I'm told.

Apparently they hired expert ergonomic and industrial designers to figure out how many servers and workstations they could cram into a mobile semi-trailer lab, while still making it comfortable to work in. Kind of a neat optimization problem I think.

Re:No... (2, Interesting)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207197)

"how many servers and workstations they could cram into a mobile semi-trailer lab"

I'm guessing the answer was lots and lots...... there are quite a few technical challenges as you say, power, cooling, and making sure that the machines survive the journey, too.

It would be a neat side business if Google went into providing server farms and data centers for other businesses; as other people have mentioned they have a lot of smart people working on the associated problems.

Hey, it could save their asses if this whole internet thing doesn't pan out :)

Re:No... (4, Insightful)

x2A (858210) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207245)

Better than that guy they spent $50,000 who said moving the plant from the window and installing a water feature would allow the energy would flow much better...

If google come out with a "can save energy this way...", and gets the world to follow, the marketing value speaks for itself. That kind of reputation doesn't come easily.

Re:Big ego department (2, Insightful)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206657)

given that the article says

Although Google does not plan to enter the personal computer market, the company is a large purchaser of microprocessors and has evolved a highly energy-efficient power supply system for its data centers.

I assume Google is employing some smart electrical engineers, which are more than qualified to make this kind of recommendations I would think...

Re:Big ego department (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207081)

I really don't think that Google is a bunch of shoeless code jockeys playing with database results and fiddling with power connectors to fry capacitors.
I'm pretty sure that there are intelligent, educated people that get a Google payroll paycheck.
I'm also willing to bet that if some of the intelligent, educated people that are experts in this area that aren't on Google's payroll did receive a Google paycheck for their opinion and dissertation on the matter.

Once could conclude that with a server farm of 450,000, that they probably employ some knowlegeable, educated people that probably know more than your average lay person about power distribution in the enterprise.
Hell, the lead maintenance man of any skycraper could teach you gobs of information on how to cool a room.

At any rate, what would make Google's opinion worth any less merit than anything from Microsoft or Apple with regards to power distribution on a motherboard?

Re:Big ego department (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207327)

I wouldn't look to MS or even Apple for expert opinions on power distribution.

Re:Big ego department (1)

AP2k (991160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206661)

If a caveman were to tell you "fire hot", would the fact that he is not educated invalidate his findings?

Re:Big ego department (0, Troll)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206843)

No, but your analogy assumes that Google's proposal is an obviously good engineering solution, which hasn't yet been proven.

Re:Big ego department (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206665)

The spleen? You don't need it.

Re:Big ego department (5, Insightful)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206717)

I would bet a lot of the employees at Google have Electrical Engineering degrees. Don't underestimate the brain power Google has in its employee base. But the power supply issue they're trying to address isn't a technical challenge, but a political challenge.

Re:Big ego department (1)

BlackIcejane (1004346) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206807)

Well they do have a lot of servers Im not sure they should be a guiding force in this but I think they can put the sugestion out there.

Re:Big ego department (2, Insightful)

chroot_james (833654) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206863)

There is no reason to be annoyed by people trying to do good things!

Re:Big ego department (5, Insightful)

ve3id (601924) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206987)

I have been saying this for years. We lose 10-20 % of energy charging a battery in a UPS with 117V, we lose another 20-30% in the inverter to get it back to 117V, and then we lose another 10% getting the 117V back to usable voltages for the PC.

It does not take an expert in electrical engineering, just common sense.

Can I sue google for stealing my idea?

Re:Big ego department (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207009)

Google manufacturered those 450,000 servers themselves. That gives them some expertise. If they had given that many people medical care, I'd listen to their medical advice too.

Re:Big ego department (0, Troll)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207435)

Sorry, but assembling servers out of COTS components doesn't make you an expert on computer design any more than working on a car assembly line makes you an automotive engineer. I'll bet the "manufacturing" effort at Google was carried out by relatively low paid workers, not Google "puzzle" solvers.

Re:Big ego department (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207363)

So now Google thinks it's an expert in Electrical Engineering.

Naaaaaaaaaah! They've just been reading my posts.

KFG

What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (4, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206653)

In the old days, disk drive motors and fans. But many of these now run on 5V, hence the cheap USB-powered drive cases out there. Chips at CMOS power levels run at 3.3v, TTL is 5v, but hardly anything runs at 12v anymore. It seems to me that if they'd just pick their hardware carfully, they could run their entire server rack off of 5v+- rails.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206695)

RS-232.

+/- 12V.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206747)

RS232

Ok, so I missed one- but I haven't seen a server with RS232 ports in ages, and USB has pretty much taken over serial communications at this point if you once again, pick your hardware carefully.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (2, Informative)

Craig Davison (37723) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206857)

You've never seen a console port on a disk array, router, switch or UPS? That RJ-45 socket speaks RS-232 and will connect to your serial port with the right cable.

(Yes, some UPS's have USB)

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (2, Interesting)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206953)

Mabye you're correct, but the dual rail +12/-12 needed for 'RS-232' is easily generated right in the interface chip with a few capacitors. Said chip only needs +5v to operate.

Of course, 'violations' of the voltage on 'Rs-232' ports has historically been really really common. Old PCs often had problems operating with serial mice, because the voltage span on the RS-232 ports on some machines was only a few volts. I remember an old Northgate 386 at work that had that problem.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207391)

You've never seen a console port on a disk array, router, switch or UPS? That RJ-45 socket speaks RS-232 and will connect to your serial port with the right cable.

I have- but what part of choose your hardware carefully do you people not understand? RS232 is a rather outdated protocol at this point. My two latest computer purchases do not speak RS232 natively- but they DO have multiple USB ports.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207017)

Like you said, pick your hardware carefully:
http://www.maxim-ic.com/quick_view2.cfm/qv_pk/1798 [maxim-ic.com]
It has an internal 5 volt to +/-12 volt converter.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207139)

WTF? Every ATCA blade server or CGL-compatible blade comes with RS232. Have you never heard of a serial port server? Those boxes are damn convenient. Oh, and... here's a 2006 ATCA blade server I worked with (and still do, sigh) that has a RS232 port: Sun Microsystems CP3020 [sun.com] .

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (2, Funny)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207527)

And exactly what do you use such a server for? Not for internet, that's for damned sure, 115kbaud is far too slow to serve a 1.5TB line....

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (4, Informative)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207033)

RS-232

Sorry no. Modern rs232 circuits, if it's not already built into the UART, use a chip like max232 that runs off 5V and has a built-in charge pump to generate (close to) RS232 output voltages.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206781)

Video cards use a ton of 12v power, enough that high-end cards get a dedicated connector featuring two wires of it.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (4, Informative)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206979)

This is true, but Google is not throwing 7950's in their servers. These systems run with on-board video at best. Google has no need for a video card that can do anything more than text, as with all non-windows based servers. For that matter, after the first boot, there is no need for a video card at all.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (5, Interesting)

Jahz (831343) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207221)

Actually I would bet that Google servers DON'T have a video card, and that all of them have RJ-45 SOL support (or something like it). The reason being that Google has admitted that they fully embrace the commodity distributed server system. Google will periodically host talks at my university where they explain all this in [too much] detail.

Basically, when a machine fails, it is pulled from the rack and replaced with an identical machine with a cookie cutter image. Kinda like the Borg :)

When a box fails it is probably instantly detected by some machine monitor and taken offline (think: the 'crop' tenders in the Matrix I). The sysadmins arent going to waste time plugging a video cable into the rack... just pull it. Toss the box into a repair queue and let the tech's put a video card into it if needed. Remeber: 100's of machines fail for them every day. That's a fact from the Google talk in 05.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207481)

I'm not sure what an RJ-45 SOL is. (RJ-45 serial consoles?)

Anyway, I had a cage next door to them for a while, and checked out their hardware a little. This was a few years ago, but at that time, it didn't look like they had any kind of consoles. There certainly wasn't any VGA, and they were using desktop motherboards, so no serial consoles.

For their application, why bother with a console at all? Image a bunch of machines, throw them in the rack, and never think about them again.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (4, Insightful)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207231)

Google is not throwing 7950's in their servers. These systems run with on-board video at best. Google has no need for a video card that can do anything more than text, as with all non-windows based servers. For that matter, after the first boot, there is no need for a video card at all.

Seems to me Google doesn't want to fracture the commodity hardware market into server-class hardware using 5VDC power and desktop-class hardware using 12VDC. One standard, applied equally across the entire range of products.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207269)

You'd think that with all the parallel operations modern GPUs are capable of, Google would find a way to use them in their database (or at least use them for something)...

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207417)

Thank you- you're the first person to teach me something NEW. I didn't know GPUs still used 12V technology- especially since they all seem to output TTL level voltages.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206881)

3.5" IDE disks still use the 12V rail (Dunno about SATA, but I would assume so, since the hardware is almost the same). Those cheap USB-powere drive cases are 2.5" (e.g. LAPTOP drive) cases.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206903)

Almost nothing, but that is irrelevant. A modern PC uses so much power that it would be plain stupid to try and deliver it at lower voltages. The power is stepped down close to the actual load, because otherwise you'd need much heavier wires or lose much power to heated cables. That kinda is the point of the proposal: Every PC already has the necessary regulators because there's simply no other sane way to deliver the kind of power that graphics cards and CPUs consume. So what's the point in keeping the power supply complicated when the main consumers in a PC use the 12V line anyway?

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (4, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206981)

Modern CPUs run on core voltages of 1.5 v or less, depending on model. DDR RAM is 2.5V IIRC.
So you will have to convert most of your power from 5 V to something else. And if you have to re-convert anyway, 5V as intermediate voltage is not optimal. When converting to 5V, the voltage drop in the power diodes and in the wires to the mainboard eats a much higher proportion of the power than with 12V as intermediate voltage.
24V or even 48V would be even better. The auto industry is currenly starting to introduce 48V systems BTW.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207271)

Are you talking about something other than the 36/42 Volt stuff that is being used in cars, or misquoting the Voltage?

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207389)

No, he's talking about making 24V the standard voltage in passenger cars. That step will be necessary for drive by wire systems and other electric actuators. The currents are becoming too high with 12V and heated, motorized seats, electric windows, electric everything. Copper wire is expensive and heavy, so lowering the currents is an important design goal. Ergo 24V.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207019)

Um, the power hungry brain known as the CPU runs off the 12V rails.

5V is too low (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207031)

If you're cabling up a rack then you should not be delivering low voltages directly to the boards for two main reasons:

1) Losses are I^2R. This means that you have more power loss if you transfer power at low voltages through the same wires, connectors etc. You need switchmode power supplies anyway, so may as well switch down from a from a higher voltage.5V means more current than 12V, meaning thicker wires, higher current connectors etc and less headroom in the system for voltage loss.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (5, Informative)

zootjeff (531575) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207129)

If you look at just routing 12 volts everywhere, you just would have to put the regulators in the hard drives, and CDROMS so they don't need 3.3 and 5 volts. Then what do you do about +5 Stanby that allows you to hibernate? Do you still need a stand by voltage? It isn't and easy answer and will take the whole industry to adopt it. Checkout formfactors.org for ATX and BTX specifications that Intel is pushing. What's also interesting is the 600 and 700, etc Watt power supplies just keep their 3.3 and 5 volts at around 30 amps max, but keep adding +12V1 +12V2 +12V3, etc.. Looks like the industry is already going to mostly 12 volts for distribution anyway. But don't you still need PS_ON, PowerOK, etc.. You're just trying to phase out the +5 and +3.3, and -12 which hardly any motherboards use these days, and maybe the +5 Standby, then it's going to happen eventually anyway. Most of the power is going on the 12 volt lines anyway, so having inefficient +3.3 and +5 isn't really a big deal. I've studied this for a while as my big hobby is computers in cars, I built a power supply called DSX12V that takes a 8-16 volt input and makes a solid 12v output that I got over 97% efficiency on. This is good for people sticking computers in cars or running them off banks of batteries for solar power applications etc.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (1)

tobyvoss (584427) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207373)

mod parent up, please! though "anyway" appears too frequently.

Re:What in a modern computer actually uses 12V? (4, Interesting)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207297)

In the old days, disk drive motors and fans. But many of these now run on 5V, hence the cheap USB-powered drive cases out there. Chips at CMOS power levels run at 3.3v, TTL is 5v, but hardly anything runs at 12v anymore. It seems to me that if they'd just pick their hardware carfully, they could run their entire server rack off of 5v+- rails.

You are correct that hard drives generally use just 5V, but the rest of your points are not even close. Modern CPUs require lower voltages, higher current, and tighter regulation, which is why DC-DC power supplies are now on motherboards instead of running directly from an ATX supply.

Furthermore, running a rack of servers on 5V rails would be absolutely absurd. Do you have any idea what the amperage would be? The bus bars would have to be several inches thick, the transmission loss would be enormous, and if you accidentally shorted them.... forget it!

Something like 48VDC might work but then you lose out on all the economies of scale driven by the 110/240VAC standard.

Just match the power supply to the motherboard and be done with it. Standardizing on one voltage is impractical, and besides, how would it improve "efficiency"?

MOSFETs use 12V (2, Insightful)

wtarreau (324106) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207411)

Many recent motherboard use 12V to control voltage regulators' MOSFETs gates because the higher the voltage, the lower the internal resistance, so the higher the efficiency. 5V is generally too low to achieve good efficiency, but 12V is fine.
From 12V, the MB can produce 3.3V and 1.xxx Volt for the CPU. It's easy to also provide 5V on the MB.

Yay! My parents have to pay less! (-1, Redundant)

DaMouse404 (812101) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206683)

I welcome these new power supplies so my parents can care even less about the electricity bill and fund me trips to disney land!
-DaMouse

good idea but... (2, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206691)

Its a nice idea and one that is probably a long time coming, but phasing something like that into place will take an incredibly long time. Look at the struggles of PCI express, its still not in 50% of the newer motherboards and systems though its benefits are more than apparent. Its just been in the past couple years that we have seen a shift to full usb and most machines still come with ps2, serial and parallel ports anyway. Dramatic changes to the PC standards are very difficult, there are millions of existing machines that still need support. Perhaps if it was tied to a new socket standard in the future it could slowly be phased in through upgrades, but I see the chances as very very slim.

Re:good idea but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206783)

Not every user needs a PCI-E videocard/other component. Less power consumption benefits all consumers.

Re:good idea but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207137)

Look at the struggles of PCI express, its still not in 50% of the newer motherboards and systems though its benefits are more than apparent.

Yes, but not all computers need that kind of speed.

Its just been in the past couple years that we have seen a shift to full usb and most machines still come with ps2, serial and parallel ports anyway.

A lot of systems don't come with ps2, serial, parallel or pci connections any more. Do you know how much legacy gear there is out there? Millions upon millions.

Supporting USB is not the same as discontinuing ps2. I haven't seen a computer without USB in 10 years. But how angry is a major retailer going to be when they can't fine computers that work with their ps2-based barcode scanners.

I have a huge box of keyboards that are kept as spares. They are slowly becoming useless.

Re:good idea but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207321)

Well many PCs come with serial and parallel ports for reasons other than just home users. Embedded systems developers use those extensively. I have a USB to serial device for my laptop because it doesn't have any serial ports. I cannot use my JTAG 3 Cable [digilentinc.com] Instead I must use the USB cable which requires special software and isn't integrated with my development tools.

Yes you're right in the fact that adoption is a big issue. Part of the reason adoption is slow is because of lack of backwards compatibility. If my keyboard and mouse still work, why buy a new one? PCI-Express is a prime example, last I checked all I could find that use it was video cards. If that still is the case, why have a computer with nothing but PCI-Express in it. I dont know what MoBos you're looking at, the only ones without PCI-X that I have seen are server boards. Even then alot that I've looked at *I'm starting to price out a new desktop* have it.

ATX on the other hand was quickly adopted, this is because it is behind the scenes. If you build a new computer without gutting your old one, you need a new power supply etc to go with it. It all depends on the impact of the change on the user. Users are willing to pickup a Mobo w/ PCI-X when they build a new system. A killer for a while was no AGP cards for those without PCI-X. Finally they filled that gap recently. No one wants to build a new computer every 6 months. The resistance to change echos from that. Companies do not want to alienate previous customers.

Re:good idea but... (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207449)

To be fair though, I don't think anyone has a trademark or patent on "12V", unlike getting USB/USB2 certification, PCI Express, etc. etc. etc.

Combine it with a UPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206723)

Combine it with a 12 V battery and eliminate the cost and inefficiency of a UPS. Why isn't the battery inside the computer?

Re:Combine it with a UPS (2, Interesting)

zootjeff (531575) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206855)

For your 12 volt battery that can vary more than 10% as it discharges, you'll need something like what I have designed for use in cars. Some motherboard makers already make computers that run on 12 volts. The Commell LV-673NS Pentium M Mini-ITX Mainboard already runs on 12 volts (+- 5%), and then if you use the Mpegbox DSX12V which is 95+ efficient, then it can run off a battery or in a car.

Google vs servers (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206759)

I'm surprised Google isn't running off 48V DC power supplies already, which, from what the documentation has shown me, already exhibit some of these savings...
On the other hand, it might have to do with Google's policy to use as much off-the-shelf equipment as possible, which 48V is not(iirc), so unless the "off-the-shelf-standard" changes, google might be in a position that they have to either break their own rules, or pay for following them.

Considering the number of servers google has, I'm surprised they haven't made 48V mandatory, just for the durability factor though. Converting to DC outside the pc also reduces noise, vibration, and allows bigger, heftier, more efficient conversion IMO, it also leaves more room inside for what the server does best, process data.

Re:Google vs servers (1)

synx (29979) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206913)

48 V equipment is COTS - just not for the PC industry. The telco industry uses 48 V all over the place. I remember cisco's 2000 line of routers having a 48 V DC feed/plug.

Of course, how do you know Google isn't doing exactly what you mention? No one knows what really happens inside those giant datacentres. Protect the competitive secrets I guess.

If you've ever read the Xoogler's blog then you'd know that google doesn't exactly build machines the way you and I might. Meaning, your assumption of a case is fairly presumptive.

Re:Google vs servers (1)

johansch (9784) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206945)

48V DC hardware is expensive, because it's "enterprisey". Probably even more expensive than the extra cost for the inefficies in commodity hardware.

DC power supplies (1)

benow (671946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206765)

At the recent linuxworld in sf, I noticed some dc power supplies being pushed in the rack pc sector. I guess the lack of conversion from AC to DC saves a bit of juice, which makes a difference in large colocation centers. Combined with dc conversion on the motherboard, it would just be a matter of hooking up 12V DC direct to the board, which would be much nicer on the equipment and save a bit of power.

Proposal spells doom for USB powered devices (3, Interesting)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206791)

You can say goodbye to USB powered devices. An example would be the canned drink cooler.

Thanks,
Jim

Re:Proposal spells doom for USB powered devices (2, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206897)

Why? I can turn 12VDC into 5VDC (what USB uses) with nothing more than a voltage regulator (or if you want to waste a ton of power, a relatively trivial voltage divider).

The 5 volt rail (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206811)

5 volts harkens back to the days of 7400 series TTL.

Time to give it a rest if it's not a necessary voltage.

white paper (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206839)

Any links to the Google white paper detailing their reasons for this system architecture?

I've wanted this for years. (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206859)

The ability to have all my machines powered by a heavy cable carrying 12VDC would be pretty useful for several reasons.

  • The UPS could be integrated into the power supply, avoiding lots of energy lost in converting it up to 110VAC and right back down again.
  • The power supply would then be external, where it could be a fanless brick instead of being inside the case where it adds heat that must be dissipated.
  • A switching power supply is theoretically more efficient than a wall wart. If everything were 12V, all those stupid little outboard devices could draw power off of the same supply source, resulting in better overall efficiency. More importantly, I would never let out the magic smoke when I accidentally plug a wall wart into the wrong device. :-)
  • A 12V system can more easily be integrated with solar panels to reduce load on the power grid.

*sigh*

Re:I've wanted this for years. (2, Interesting)

sebol (112743) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207083)

it make sense...

Next generation computer should have 12v plug and special cable, so that it can take 12v source from outside.
What's important is the cable and socket but be different with 110v or 235v to avoid "accident".

i would love to see conputer running from a car battery

Re:I've wanted this for years. (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207095)

You still miss the Commodore 64 don't you?

Re:I've wanted this for years. (2, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207105)

You make a good point about wall warts, except you don't go far enough. If all portable devices accepted 12V power, somebody would come out with a single brick with multiple 12V plugs, which would be a godsend to travellers who currently schlep one wall wart for each device.

**big sigh**

Re:I've wanted this for years. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207253)

Sort of like an iGo?

Unfortunately, they still don't have the one thing I want, which is to combine the iGo with a lithium ion charger for camera batteries with swappable tips. Camera chargers take up more space than other power supplies by far.

The day I have my first battery failure on my Canon Digital Rebel, I'm cutting that sucker open and fitting it with a 9V battery clip and a switching regulator.

Re:I've wanted this for years. (1)

object88 (568048) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207433)

If all portable devices accepted 12V power, somebody would come out with a single brick with multiple 12V plugs, which would be a godsend to travellers who currently schlep one wall wart for each device.

Guitar players have just such a device for stompboxes. The vast majority of stompboxes run off a 9V DC, from a battery or wallwart, so there are several bricks you can purchase with just that. Of course, you still have to be careful around those oddballs which call for 5V, 12V, 18V, or inverted power, so it's not an ideal situation.

Re:I've wanted this for years. (2, Insightful)

genericacct (692294) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207207)

I'm all about the solar angle! Someday I'll wire my house with an off-grid 12-volt solar system, with 12-volt "car lighter" sockets and DC lighting (both LED and mini halogen). Laptop and WiFi router plug in to it.

And everything can plug into the car with the same cord. That's another awesome advantage, being able to put these same computers in cars and RVs.

OMFG OW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207223)

dood stop fukkin my eye

Re:I've wanted this for years. (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207311)

Your points are interesting, but that's not what Google is talking about. They're just proposing that the cable from the power supply to the motherboard inside a PC or server should only carry 12V. The power supply is still internal, and each device still has a separate supply.

Awesome for us Off-Grid'ers... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207425)

My mountaintop observatory is entirely 12 Volt DC-powered. Unfortunately a lot of otherwise-useful devices run off AC adapters with weird and wonderful voltages, such as 7.5 or 9 Volt.

It'd be great to know that I can hook anything up without having to kludge mods to avoid frying them. At least I didn't go to 24 or 48 Volts... ;-)

Offtopic: Growth (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206861)

The rate at which the Google computing system has grown is as remarkable as its size. In March 2001, when the company was serving about 70 million Web pages daily, it had 8,000 computers, according to a Microsoft researcher granted anonymity to talk about a detailed tour he was given at one of Google's Silicon Valley computing centers. By 2003 the number had grown to 100,000.

I've done my share of Google-bashing (mainly due to their inability to move their newer products beyond "beta"), but here's an accomplishment I have to admire: 100,000 servers designed and installed, pretty much glitch-free, in just 2 years! By contrast, my old web presence provider, a reputable and successful outfit, botched a simple expansion involving just a few computers [dreamhost.com] , forcing a lot of customers (including me) to eat their contracts and move on.

Heaven (0, Offtopic)

MCBacklash (842764) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206871)

Just think! DC Power Bus... Standard connectors... Good-bye wall-warts.... Mmmmmmmm... Donuts!

While we're at it let's ditch motherboards too. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206887)

The motherboard itself is an outdated concept. It's no longer really necessary if you've dealt with small form factor boards you can easily see that the boards are just a substrate to stick the chips on and for that a flat board-like surface doesn't make sense. What you really need is a cubic cartridge like device that gives you access to more surface area for interfaces close to the memory and CPUs and other chips in a smaller area. It would also facilitate cooling reducing power requirements at the system level.

With all due respect (1)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206905)

With all due respect, who cares about power consumption? Have you seen the rumored specs of the latest video cards? Don't innovate, just brute force the problem. A rather sad state of affairs. Give me twice the performance with half the transistors and I am SOLD.

/rant (karma burning in effect) Seriously though, props to Google for sayin what many have probably already said. Its just that Google isn't Joe Sixpack. Maybe people will listen to them.

Re:With all due respect (1)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207257)

Apples and Oranges.

Most anyone running a data center or who has a lot of servers cares about power and heat. The electricity bill -- including all that extra air conditioning -- is a whopper in some places.

Those people, however, don't give a rat's ass about the latest video card. People with rooms full of server are probably using an IP KVM or running them totally headless.

When you thought it was safe to plug in... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206951)

Microsoft will specify a Vista-compatible power supply that not only uses a single voltage but can radiate power like Star Trek's newest Enterprise does for nearby devices.

Why use individual power supplies? (1)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206975)

Seems like there was some talk a couple of years ago about doing the AC-DC conversion on a massive level, then running individual servers off a server-room wide source. If you create +-12v output on a block of plugs, and +-5v outputs on another set of plugs, you could achieve much better efficiencies. You'd also probably cut your costs significantly. If you put a massive AC-DC transfomer in another area, you could isolate the cooling systems, etc. One large cooling system for a single, large power supply woiuld be more efficient thatn 50,000 individual power supply cooling systems. You might also be able to isolate any out-of phase conditions all those servers would create.

You could also use off the shelf motherboards, and just run longer cables to the wall. THere's likely not enough power running through the wires to account for a significantdrop over a relatively short distance.

However, some of the issue would be a single point of faiturel in the power supply, and one bad motherboard could take down an entire set of plugs nore easily than with AC.

Just have there servers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206985)

running Ultra-compacitors with only 5-minute charge could last 500 years

Why not -48? (3, Interesting)

AaronW (33736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16206995)

A lot of telco equipment is designed to run on -48 volts DC and PC and server power supplies are readily available at this voltage.

The advantage of -48 over 12 volts is that there will be less loss through resistance and smaller conductors can be used. Of course, there is a greater risk of electric shock, but I would think -48 would be pretty safe.

48 volts is also the standard for Power over Ethernet (IEEE 802.3af) [wikipedia.org] . This may not be compatible, though, since telcos run -48, not +48, though some equipment can operate with either (though some cannot).

They can easily do this now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16206999)

You can buy a ps that takes 12 volts and turns it into the other voltages. It is tiny and isn't much larger than the power connector on the motherboard. It isn't even that expensive. People commonly use them to make computers that are small enough to fit in whisky bottles or other interesting enclosures. :-) I've been using such a ps for a while and it works well.
http://www.silentpcreview.com/article601-page1.htm l [silentpcreview.com]

This ONLY makes sense in a rack, NOT a desktop! (1, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207075)

Low-voltage power supplies in racks might make sense. Not in desktops, because low-voltage power takes requires more copper to distribute it, because there's more current. Copper is very expensive of late.

Bruce

What lower voltage power supply? (2, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207393)

They're not talking about reducing the voltage the PS uses, they're talking about not having the PS produce things like +5 and -5 as well as +12, INSIDE the computer.

Re:This ONLY makes sense in a rack, NOT a desktop! (1)

schwaang (667808) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207453)

Huh?? Why would you think higher-efficiency single voltage PSUs are not a good idea for the desktop? They aren't talking about having 12V distributed to your home, if that's what you were thinking.

[And why is the referenced Google paper called "High-Efficiency Power Supplies for Home Computers and Servers"?]

Re:This ONLY makes sense in a rack, NOT a desktop! (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207517)

Low-voltage power supplies in racks might make sense. Not in desktops, because low-voltage power takes requires more copper to distribute it, because there's more current. Copper is very expensive of late.

Fine, but does the cost of copper outweigh the savings derived from reduced power consumption over the life of the computer? This measurement becomes especially important anywhere outside of North America, where power costs are often very high. Where I work in the developing world, the biggest problem I face is not buying the computers, but powering them.

I for one (heh) would welcome a low power commodity desktop at almost any price.

lies, damn lies, and (1)

Hebbinator (1001954) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207203)

Statistics. "The Google white paper argues that the opportunity for power savings is immense by deploying the new power supplies in 100 million desktop PCs running eight hours a day, it will be possible to save 40 billion kilowatt-hours over three years, or more than $5 billion at Californias energy rates." .... Someone must have been aiming for a $5 billion goal to raise eyebrows with this sentence. Either that or google studies only use units like California-powerbill-equivalent-kilowatt-hours/tri ade.

Re:lies, damn lies, and (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207263)

They probably used California rates because they are LOCATED in California and actually pay those rates.

frI)st stop (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207213)

ho

Go further (0, Redundant)

The New Stan Price (909151) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207229)

Why not have a 12 VDC plug right beside your 120 VAC plug in your home. Many components have to downconvert / rectify the 120 VAC, losing energy to heat, etc.

Bad idea (2, Interesting)

ErMaC (131019) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207273)

Google's whitepaper is interesting but the fact is that DC in the Datacenter is already happening, and it's not gaining much momentum for multiple reasons.
Google's perspective is rather unique, they use super-cheap desktop systems that individually do not use a lot of power and thus running them off 12v DC might make sense. But in any other, more conventional datacenter, servers have multiple power supplies that can EACH pull 800w of power. Now when you're running 110v AC that means you're pulling ~7 amps through a single cable. You need datacenter grade power cables for this, but it's still sane. Now you can get datacenter equipment that runs 48v DC, but those cables end up running ~15 amps through them, so now you need substantially stronger cable - cable so thick that running it becomes a seriously difficult task due to the guage of the wire!
More likely the direction people are going (and have been for some time) is to 208v AC or 3 phase 220v AC. Now you've just halved the current draw, meaning that your PDUs don't need to be as hefty, your wire doesn't have to be as thick, your coils don't get as hot, etc.
Running 12v DC in any real data center would be ludicrous - the amount of current you'd have to draw through your cables would be way beyond a safe level.
Also AC/DC conversions are cheap these days. And remember, DC can kill you just as easily as AC when your DC Voltage is that low.

Re:Bad idea (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16207519)

no it does not: I=U/R, U gets lower, your personal R stays constant. Now if I is 50mA you're safe.

This is about voltage to the boards, not the box (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207325)

Most of the postings so far have it all wrong. Google is not proposing 12VDC into a desktop PC or 12VDC distribution within the data center. What they're proposing is that the only DC voltage distributed around a computer case should be 12VDC. Any other voltages needed would be converted on the board that needed it.

This is called "point of load conversion", and involves small switching regulators near each load. Here's a tutorial on point of load power conversion. [elecdesign.com]

It's been a long time since CPUs ran directly from the +5 supply. There's already point of load conversion on the motherboard near the CPU. Google just wants to make that work off the +12 supply, and get rid of the current +5/-5/+12/-12 output set.

Mod parent +100 informative... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207445)

Though getting rid of all the voltage levels will take more than the motherboard work... you'll also need to do something about all the disks and other components that are currently getting a mixed feed.

Hey here's one (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207357)

S
ave the conversion process all together and tell motherboard makers to rectify 120 V directly on the motherboards. It worked for old TVs, it could work again. Maybe.

PicoPSU (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207413)

There's already a small-scale example of this: the PicoPSU [silentpcreview.com] . You use an external 12V power brick, and then internally replace your entire computer PSU with something about the size of a matchbox. However, it is only 120W, and a bit short on connectors.

FWIW.. (4, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16207533)

The Mac Mini will boot and run on a 12-volt supply. It only takes 17v so that it can provide Firewire power.

-jcr
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>