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Energy Efficiency–Where the Rubber Meets the Road

by Nik Simpson  |  July 9, 2010  |  1 Comment

As Intel and AMD have announced new products, the energy efficiency of their processors in terms of performance/watt has been a key part of their overall marketing message. But the energy efficiency of the processor is only a small part of the overall efficiency of an infrastructure designed to support applications, and often the processor is tiny part of the picture that includes storage, memory, networking equipment, and the overall efficiency of the power distribution in the data center.

So this week’s announcement of the first TPC database benchmark results that include energy consumption as a metric were of great interest. The results come from HP and cover their recently announced 4-socket servers; DL580 G7 (Intel Xeon 7500 family) and D585 G7 (AMD Opteron 6000 family). From my perspective, the most interesting results are the TPC-E results that allow us to compare the DL 580 and DL 585 directly on the same benchmark:


The configurations used were similar in construction, but the DL580 used considerably more hardware:


The extra hardware means that the DL580 G7 uses substantially more power, but delivers 43% transactions than DL585 G7, but on a transaction/watt basis the DL580 G7 is ~13% more efficient.

What’s more striking is how little the server contributes to the overall power consumption for a database application, as we can see from the following table (taken from the Executive Summary for the DL585 G7 benchmark submission):table2

Not surprisingly, the real energy hog here is the storage component which accounts for almost 80% of the energy consumption. Even halving the energy consumption of the server would have marginal impact on the overall picture. So if you want to make database systems more energy efficient, focus on the storage, and that means looking at technologies such as solid state disks.

So, congratulations to the TPC and HP for getting these results out, I’m really looking forward to how other vendors will respond, and how quickly we see some innovation in the storage subsystems. One last point that I would like to see addressed is that reporting energy consumption is optional, and that needs to change, not just for the TPC benchmark suite but for all server and storage benchmarks.

Posted by: Nik Simpson

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Category: benchmarks  energy-efficiency  servers  storage  

Nik Simpson
Research Director
3 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Nik Simpson covers a variety of topics focused in three areas: 1. Compute platforms, x86 and RISC platforms 2. Data center infrastructure and design (power, cooling, etc.) 3. Thick, thin and zero client desktop platforms. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Energy Efficiency–Where the Rubber Meets the Road

  1. Brian says:

    This is a really good discussion on different unified storage options. For those who don’t know EMC’s solutions, I think this paper will help you see that they’ve got some really great new and upcoming features that give their storage systems a leg up on the competition. That means efficiency and cost savings for your company. — Brian, EMC Social Outreach Team

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