If you are just trying to get your application live on the Internet, you might be under the impression that “green IT” and “Power Usage Efficiency” is something the infrastructure guys should worry about. As an hardware enthusiast working for an internet company, you probably worry a lot more about keeping everything “in the air” than the power budget of your servers. Still, it will have escaped no one’s attention that power is a big issue.


But instead of reiterating the clichés again, let us take a simple example. Let us say that you need a humble setup of 4 servers to run your services on the internet. Each server consuming 250W when running at a high load (CPU at 60% or so). If you are based in the US, that means that you need about 10-11 amps: 1000W  divided by 110V plus a safety margin. In Europe, you’ll need about 5 amps (Voltage = 230V). In Europe you’ll pay up to $100 per month per amp that you need. The US prices vary typically between $15 and $30 per amp per month. So depending on where you live, it is not uncommon to pay something like $300 to $500 per month just to feed electricity to your servers. In the worst case, you are paying up to $6000 per year ($100 x 5 x 12 months) to keep a very basic setup up and running. That is $24000 in four years. If you buy new servers every 4 years, you probably end up spending more on power than on the hardware!

Keeping an eye on power when choosing the hardware and software components is thus much more than naively following the hype of “green IT”. It is simply the smart thing to do. We take another shot at understanding how choosing your server components wisely can give you a cost advantage. In this article, we focus on low power Xeons in a consolidated Hyper-V/Windows 2008 virtualization scenario. Do Low Power Xeons save energy and costs? We designed a new and improved methodology to find out.

The new methodology
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  • duploxxx - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    It is a very nice test, but always those tests are done with extreme low or extreme high bins while the mass isn't buying these parts, In the field you rather see huge piles of for example E5620-30 series and X5650, result differences should be interesting to see or at least for once provide an idea about the scaling in portfolio. (I know this is a difficult one)

    Although It is very interesting to see the differences within vendors or between vendors there is one major thing that is missing in all these tests. This review will provide any interested IT a good overview what he could do with power consumption and the performance but what is left out here is the big influence from OEM.

    OEM have there own powersavings/regulators/dynamics that influence the server a lot both in OS and BIOS, even often in a very bad way. So while it is an interesting article most IT will never get the result they wanted due to the OEM implementation.
  • indiamap - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    I do agree 100% with the author. Johan is very much clear on what he is more concerned about, the electricity bill. It’s very much true that electricity bills eat up large amount of income of <a href="http://www.indiamaphosting.com/">Internet Marketing India</a> companies and it’s a huge burden from business point of view. This can be tackled by opting for better hardware's which is compatible with green energy and helps in cutting the electricity bill extensively and saves huge sum of money for the organization in the long run.
  • indiamap - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    This is what the internet companies were looking for. Cost Cutting. It is very essential from business POV. Lesser the energy consumption, more the investment on product research. Great numbers exposed. Thanks a lot Johan. I wonder this is why Google started electricity generating stations to power its massive data centers.

    For more information, please visit: http://www.indiamaphosting.com/
  • mino - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    Johan - great article.

    Keep it up !
  • Whizzard9992 - Monday, July 19, 2010 - link

    Can we please clean up the spam here? Where's the "REPORT" button?
  • Toadster - Friday, July 16, 2010 - link

    Given the results you've found it would be great to see how power capping can influence the workloads as well. The latest DELL Poweredge-C platforms support Intel Intelligent Power Node Manager technology - would be fantastic to have a look!

    Keep up the great work - excellent article!
  • Casper42 - Saturday, July 17, 2010 - link

    So first off I have to say that using a home built Machine with an Asus mobo and trying to talk intelligently about Datacenter Power is not really a fair comparison. Stick to the big 3 (HP/Dell/IBM) when doing these kinds of comparisons.

    Now the real reason I posted was because you mentioned the speed of the memory you used, but made NO mention of the speed the memory was actually running at.

    With the Nehalem and Westmere Xeons, only the X series can run the memory at 1333 while the others (E and L series) start at 1066. When you run more than one bank of memory you can also see your memory frequency decline depending on the server vendor you are using. I think HP has a bit you can flip in their machines that will allow you to run 2 banks @ 1333 (again, assuming X Series proc) but if you don't turn that on, you step down from 1 bank @ 1333 to 2 @ 1066 and even 3 @ 800.

    The reason I bring this up is because you said yourself your machine was NOT CPU bound, and you weren't entirely sure why the tests completed with such different times. Well memory performance could be part of that equation.

    Lastly, you have to remember that not every server in a DC is running VMWare/HyperV and there are still tons of servers with basic Windows or Linux App/Web workloads running right on the hardware. These kind of servers on average in the industry run less than 10% of the CPU max in a given day (might be spikes for backups and other jobs, but the average is <10%)
    So if you had a rack with 20 2U Servers and you didn't need VMWare/SQL/Oracle level performance in those racks, why not run them with L series processors and across an entire rack you are saving a decent amount of power.

    PS: Where are you guys at AT located? Your "About Us" button up top has been useless for quite some time now. Not sure it could be pulled off, but you should really look into asking the big 3 for demo gear. Getting a Nehalem EX right now is damn near impossible but a Westmere EP would be doable. The problem here is they do loaners to get sales, not to get reviews, so what you really need to do is find some friends who work in IT at very large companies in your area who would be willing to let you get some wrench time on their demo equipment. 60-90 day loans are quite common.

  • tjohn46 - Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - link

    I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone else make a similar comment yet: I've been curious about this for a long time, but I would rather see a comparison between 2 CPUs that are intended to be competitive.

    It looks Intel changed things a bit with 5600 series xeons, but previously (including with the 5500's) intel would match up model numbers, cores, and clock speeds. The model with the 'L' prefix would just have a lower TDP. I was always curious if those performed just as well or not?

    For example:

    E5520 vs L5520
    E5530 vs L5530

    I see AMD also has some 80W and 65W comparable models if you do end up testing opterons.

    That would be the real "is it worth the processor price premium?" question in my opinion. Of course the high end part which doesn't have a comparable "low power" model is going to perform better.. but like someone else said, a typical data center tends to have many more of the midrange parts (like an E5530) installed which also have lower power conterparts at a $200ish premium.
  • eva2000 - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    interesting to see how they compare when it comes to linux OS i.e. centos 5.5 or redhat 5.5 :)

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