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Server energy efficiency benchmark takes holistic view

Benchmarks from the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation show your server energy efficiency.

At the behest of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, SPEC recently created the SERT tool (Server Efficiency Rating Tool) to measure overall server energy efficiency.

Most data center benchmarks compare multiple servers' performance -- IT or otherwise. For instance, when it comes to energy efficiency, the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) Power group's SPECpower_ssj 2008 compares the power consumption of servers running a fixed workload. 

"One workload is a narrow focus [for a benchmark]," said Klaus-Dieter Lange, SPEC's board director and committee chair for SPECpower, as well as co-author and co-editor of Server Efficiency -- Metrics for Computer Servers and Storage, part of the ASHRAE Datacom Series.

"When we design servers there are a lot of ideas behind it, but at end of the day we have to show that we are more energy efficient than competing servers," Lange said. We caught up with Lange about the state of data center energy efficiency.

Modern Infrastructure: Is server energy efficiency an important metric for average enterprise data centers, or just the largest Web-scale companies and hosting providers?

Lange: Efficiency is getting more and more important. There are organizations looking at it from multiple points. When you look at high density, power providers cannot handle it. Financially, servers cost a lot of money to run. If you make the investment in new servers, you neutralize the cost [of the servers] with the power savings.

Governments around the world are implementing energy standards like Energy Star--[we] want to guide these programs. SERT can measure a lot of different kinds of workloads. SERT is mandatory to run for Energy Star [rating].

How has server energy efficiency and performance changed in recent years?

Lange: Innovation at every server vendor will continue to drop [servers'] energy use per workload. [There is a] continued trend of power use going down and energy efficiency going up.

SPECpower_ssj2008 does not stress the storage subsystem; with the SERT suite you can measure the energy efficiency of storage and evaluate [the product] based on it. [But] efforts are taking place all over the place. When you have metrics to actually measure energy use, you can see what works, and you can compete. With the expansion of metrics for different workloads, everyone has to compete against the standard to claim market data [on the servers that they sell]. It improves all areas: memory, compute and storage efficiency. Now that you can measure it, you can develop things more smartly. 

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