Dell outlines plan to help customers cut energy costs

Dell has lined out steps to improve energy efficiency in servers and a new server-refresh cycle to cut energy costs in the long run.

Dell this week talked about steps the company is taking to improve energy efficiency in servers, also outlining a server-refresh cycle that could help customers cut energy costs in the long run.

The company is fitting higher quality components into servers and pushing virtualization to consolidate workloads that could help cut energy costs, Dell officials said in a meeting on Wednesday in San Francisco.

Historically, Dell has been known for selling servers at good value. The company is now willing to trade-in the price advantage to offer high-quality hardware that can balance server workloads and cut energy costs. That will help customers save money compared to vintage and low-cost servers that are not designed to run critical data-center applications, said Rick Becker, vice president of software and solutions at Dell.

Though server prices may increase, the improved hardware can pay for itself in three years, said Albert Esser, vice president of Dell's data center infrastructure group.

Instead of the typical seven-to-eight year refresh cycle, a two-to-three year cycle to upgrade hardware and service warranties could come into effect to take advantage of the latest server technologies , Esser said.

"It is very clear that refresh rates of three years ... the total cost of ownership is less than keeping your old machines running," Esser said. Old servers unable to distribute workloads could utilize excess power and lead to system administrators buying exponentially expensive servers to fill IT needs.

New servers can distribute workloads more effectively to reduce energy costs. Dell is trying to design its server hardware to take advantage of virtualization, where workloads can be divided over a server sprawl to reduce overall power intake by a data center.

"Virtualization requires an awful lot of memory, but doesn't require an awful lot of CPU horsepower," Esser said. Dell plans to load two-socket servers with memory attachments typically found in 4-socket servers, Esser said. Similarly, four-socket servers will have memory attachments typically found in eight-socket servers.

To optimize data-center power intake, the hardware also needs be updated every two to three years, Esser said. Improved hardware with virtualized environments can pay back for itself in a span over three years, Esser said. Outdated hardware may be unable to handle advances in virtualization and workload management.

"As long as you make your applications able to follow that improvement, the [hardware] refresh rate works in your favor," Esser said.

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