Server rivals unite on energy-efficiency standard

The server industry's major vendors have banded together to create a new standard for measuring the relation of power consumption to performance.

The move will give customers an accurate tool to analyze products and spur improvements in energy efficiency, according to the vendors.

The benchmark was announced last week by the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) after being developed in conjunction with AMD, Dell, Fujitsu, Siemens, HP, Intel, IBM and Sun.

Under the new protocol vendors will usually test their own servers, but SPEC believes customers can trust the results because figures will not be published until after a peer review process involving each vendor's competitors, says Klaus-Dieter Lange, chairman of the SPECpower committee and a senior server-efficiency engineer at HP.

"It's not just a benchmark [for customers to compare products]," Lange says. "It's a performance-evaluation tool internally for HP. It's very important to have a tool like this where we can fairly compare [server power performance]."

The standard measures how many server-side Java operations can be performed per watt, and evaluates each server at 10 load levels (in 10% increments from 10% to 100%) and provides an average score.

Evaluations of 12 servers were published, and the group plans to add more servers to the list twice a month, starting in February.

Topping the list is HP's Proliant DL160 G5, with an average of 698 server-side Java operations per watt. The lowest score belonged to Intel, whose Platform SE7520AF2 Server Board scored 87.4 server-side operations per watt.

However, nearly every server on the list, including the highest-rated ones, is based on Intel Xeon processors. "That 87.4 score is one of our older Xeons," Intel spokesman George Alfs writes in an e-mail.

HP's top server on the list is based on Intel's "Harpertown" Xeon processor, and is almost eight times as powerful, according to Alfs.

HP has three servers on the list, each scoring at least 546 server-side Java operations per watt. Fujitsu has four results on the list, ranging from 356 operations to 667.

A Dell PowerEdge server checks in at 682 server-side Java operations per watt, while two servers from SuperMicro scored 338 and 468, respectively.

The new standard has been evaluated by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which gave it the thumbs-up but said this measurement tool should be just the first step in a broader industry move toward better energy efficiency.

"SPEC has taken a critical first step to give server vendors and their customers a standardised benchmark tool that elevates power efficiency in the performance evaluation process," Andrew Fanara, who oversees development of product specifications for the EPA's Energy Star program, said in a press release.

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