Power-Hungry Computers Put Data Centers in Bind (11/14/05 Wall Street Journal)
Along the way, power consumption for servers surged, approaching 3,800 watts per square foot this year for the most compact systems from 250 watts per square foot in 1992, according to the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. That's as much as 38 standard light bulbs, or more than half the power required by many homes.
Paul Otellini, Intel's chief executive, predicted in August that new chips his company is developing could save $1 billion in energy costs each year for every 100 million units sold.
The new pressures are transforming chip marketing and development plans. AMD, for example, is quick to note that its Opteron chip draws as much as 95 watts, compared with 150 watts for Intel's latest Xeon chips. Sun Microsystems Inc. today is announcing a new chip, code-named Niagara, that has eight processors but draws only about 70 watts.
New, more energy-efficient machines can't come fast enough for Denis Weber, executive director for information technology at Verizon Wireless. The company, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone PLC, was forced to upgrade a data center in Ohio to bring in two megawatts of power, a nearly sevenfold increase from 1998, he says. The monthly power bill for the center rose to $40,000 over the same period from about $10,000.
Rackspace Ltd., a San Antonio service that manages servers for clients, has seen its power needs swell to eight megawatts from three megawatts in the past three years -- sending its monthly utility bill up roughly fivefold to nearly $300,000, says Paul Froutan, vice president of product engineering.
Nowhere is cooling a hotter topic than at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where two of the most powerful computers in the world are used to simulate nuclear reactions. One system that uses conventional International Business Machines chips, dubbed ASCI Purple, draws more than seven megawatts of power. The first time it was switched on, the local utility called to ask what happened, lab officials say.
The second machine, dubbed BlueGene/L, is more than twice as fast for some applications. But it was designed with special low-powered IBM chips, so the system requires only 1.5 megawatts. Instead of drawing air from the room through side intakes, cold air is pushed up directly through the machine from the floor.
Even so, the lab's electrical bill for computers has swelled to more than $10 million a year from about $2 million several years ago, says Mike McCoy, its deputy associate director for computation. Without the radical design of the new system, the bill would be "way over $20 million, and that is completely hopeless," he says.
Sun Microsystems Shares New Chip Technology (12/1/05, Wall Street Journal)
The UltraSparc T1 chip, used in new Sun servers announced Tuesday, has circuitry for eight microprocessors. Sun, which has previously helped other companies make original chip designs based on its technology, said it now also will share its own design along with rights to patents and other information that is normally kept confidential.
The database maker normally charges a license fee for each processor on a chip, which would sharply raise the cost of running multiple programs on T1-based machines. As part of a special promotion, Oracle said it would charge one-quarter of its licensee fee for each processor, indicating that customers could run eight copies of its software on a T1-based server but only be charged for two copies.