IBM touts products to cut data center energy costs

IBM Tuesday unveiled hardware and software to help automate the management of power consumption in the data center to improve power utilization and reduce energy costs, the company said.

IBM also introduced a new line of System x servers based on the second generation of IBM's Xtended Design Architecture (XDA), said Stuart McRae, Worldwide Manager for IBM System x. The new systems, including the x3650, x3550 and x3500, feature the latest in dual-core processor technology and three times the memory expansion of earlier systems, IBM said.

"Our dual-core announcement of Intel is not specific news for us, but it's a tremendous performance opportunity for customers," McRae said. "So, for us we're excited because the new platforms deliver 90 percent better application performance and 74 percent better performance per watt. Power cooling is the No. 1 challenge for customers' data center environments -- the more servers they pack in, the hotter they are. So their pain point is really moved to getting enough actual electricity and cooling to the servers in the data center."

The introduction of IBM PowerExecutive onto the mainstream dual-socket servers is also important, McRae said. IBM PowerExecutive, an extension to IBM Director systems management software, allows clients to "meter" actual power usage and trend data for any single physical system or group of systems. Developed by IBM Research, PowerExecutive utilizes IBM-developed monitoring circuitry to determine how much power is being used and the temperature of the system. The software is available across the System x servers introduced today, as well as IBM's BladeCenter line of systems.

"PowerExecutive is all about managing the power consumption of your server resources -- getting good information and allowing customers for the first time ever on a day-to-day basis to know how much power their servers are consuming and then giving them the ability to control the amount of power their servers are consuming," he said. "Think of it as a cruise control for the power consumption of servers. Customers will be able to set the maximum power consumption for their servers and then PowerExecutive will manage the power ... so if its set to 400 watts per server that server will never consume more than 400 watts."

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group said the most interesting piece of IBM's news is the PowerExecutive.

"This is something I haven't seen from anybody else in the market," he said. "Here's the deal. When you're putting together a data center, just like when you're putting together anything else, really all you know is what the maximum wattage is that something is going to draw. ...Over time it's going to tell you the actual wattage and you'll be able to, down the road, manage to the amount of energy you want to spend on a particular task - that's a pretty cool thing. This is something that competitors and other companies and even server groups within IBM are going to need to respond to and build that type of capability into their systems."

Mitch Rosen, chief technology officer at the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science, said the university has deployed IBM System x two-way rack servers in a Linux cluster to support its computer- and data-intensive biomedical engineering research. Having the new server family was essential for the school.

As for PowerExecutive, Rosen said: "It's not out yet, but I can speak to it this way: Because I'm in a historical landmark situation, floor space is very expensive. So ... providing cooling in Thomas Jefferson's university here, having a high-compute capability and being able to manage some of the power and cooling costs is just in the sweet spot of what we need."

IBM's new System x servers and workstations include the:

  • System x3650, a business-critical application server for workload consolidation that starts at US$2,049.
  • System x3550, which is designed for power managed data center performance and starts at US$1,939.
  • System x3500, an application server for remote office management that starts at US$1,809.

IBM expects the systems to be available on June 9, with additional x86 systems for a variety of business needs to be introduced in the coming months. IBM announced new high-performance enterprise computing systems for virtualization, database, ERP and CRM applications on April 21. Those systems are available now.

IBM PowerExecutive was first introduced for IBM BladeCenter in November 2004 and is available across the IBM System x line of servers starting today, free of charge.

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