IBM puts blades on a low-carb(on) diet

IBM puts blades on a low-carb(on) diet

IBM introduced new versions of its BladeCenter and System x servers that use less power than previous models

IBM is adding to its server lineup with new models featuring lower-wattage processors and flash memory instead of disks, all in the name of energy conservation.

IBM calls the new BladeCenter blade and System x rack-mounted servers its low-carb models, only here it's referring to low-carbon emissions from needing less electricity, a play on the low-carbohydrates diet for people.

The new servers features an Intel quad-core processor, called Clovertown, that runs at 1.6GHz instead of 1.8GHz. By slowing it down, the processor drew only 50 watts (W) of power, versus 80W in the original Clovertown introduced in November, vice-president of IBM's BladeCenter line, Douglas Balog, said. The new blades were also offered with lower-wattage AMD dual-core processors.

IBM also designed the new BladeCenter servers without internal disk drives, which use 10W-12W. Instead, IBM is using a 4GB modular flash drive that it claims uses 95 per cent less power than a spinning disk drive. The flash drive can be used as a Linux operating system boot drive and as a storage device to complement shared storage on the IT network.

IBM has also improved the efficiency of how electricity is supplied to the servers. The new blade servers claimed a power efficiency rating of 90 per cent and the rack servers 85 per cent, Balog said.

"If a server has 85 per cent power efficiency and consumes 1000W, that means you are losing 150W heat before you ever power any component on the server," he said, adding that the industry average power efficiency was only 70 per cent.

IBM is also collaborating with network equipment vendors to reduce their power consumption. A 20-port 10GB Ethernet switch in an IBM blade draws just 60W of power, said Vikram Mehta, president and CEO of Blade Network Technologies, a supplier to IBM as well as its rival, HP. A typical 4-port 10GB Ethernet switch draws as much as 1800W.

Although most data center server power-efficiency efforts focused on the server processor, other components of the IT infrastructure could also be improved, Mehta said.

"Energy efficiency is not just the processor story, it's the system story," he said.

Electricity is not only more expensive for data centers and other energy users, it's identified as a contributor to global climate change. Electricity generated by coal or natural gas power plants creates carbon dioxide emissions and a build-up of these so-called greenhouse gases can cause climate change.

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