Energy Star 3.0 Server Spec to Examine New Tech Trends
It’s no secret that data centers are one of the biggest electricity consumers in the world. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, American businesses use about 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to power data centers for an overall cost of $13 billion. According to an APC whitepaper, electricity makes up about 20 percent of server rack lifetime cost of ownership. New technological developments like Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) and general-purpose Graphics Processing Units (GPGPU) have not only changed how quickly servers can operate, but have also made them more efficient. According to ComputerWorld, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies is giving the new technology attention in the upcoming server Energy Star 3.0 specification to help businesses purchase and implement server infrastructure that keeps the electric bill down. The new specification may take a few years to complete.
The programmable technology experts at Xilinx describe FPGAs as “semiconductor devices that are based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks connected via programmable interconnects.” Essentially, these devices are used to boost performance, improve energy efficiency, and create new functionality in data center infrastructure. The devices are particularly beneficial for servers that require high-bandwidth, low-latency environments for functions like web applications, streaming, and data storage. FPGAs are also used for parallel computing tasks. While FPGAs are designed to improve energy efficiency, the devices themselves can be substantial power-hogs, which can make understanding how the devices affect energy consumption unclear.
GPGPUs complicate energy consumption because the GPU devices work as a co-processor with the server’s CPU to handle processing data the CPU isn’t ideally suited for. GPUs are better at quickly handling compute-intensive functions than CPUs and can handle those same tasks while consuming less energy. According to Nvidia, CPUs feature a handful of cores (ranging from one to a few dozen) built to handle sequential serialized data whereas GPUs feature thousands of smaller, more efficient parallel-oriented cores designed to manage multiple tasks at the same time. Servers that utilize GPGPUs not only handle a variety of processing tasks faster, but can reduce a server’s energy footprint at the same time.
Another major power drain facing data centers comes from idle processing hardware being turned on and cooled. This situation was very common in the past when each server handled a single application because there was no way to utilize the unused processing overhead for other tasks. However, server virtualization allows a business to configure a single server as a host for multiple virtual servers to consolidate hardware and eliminate overhead. A virtualized server environment requires fewer hardware implementations, which reduces cooling and power infrastructure costs on top of eliminating idle power waste.
As server infrastructure demands continue to grow, the energy necessary to power the systems will grow with it. The Energy Star 3.0 spec should help businesses make smart decisions concerning server hardware and energy usage to save money and help the environment in the long run.
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