Ahead of the Curve: Cut computing power?

Let's go green

The green computing movement has gotten some traction; I'm glad. That was one of my earliest campaigns, a cause I fought before I had a voice. And until a few years ago, I was frustrated that others were overlooking the obvious: Corporations don't need to become champions of the environment to push for cooler, quieter, more efficient electrical equipment. I've said that they just have to look at their monthly electric bill. That was naive; how can a business tell what portion of its electric bill goes to computing and storage? There must be a way to figure out whether there really is a cost savings.

There is so little consensus on the proper method for calculating the value of green computing that it's become an opportunity for vendors. AMD makes an effort to give us a ballpark tally of the dollars we're saving, or wasting, by running, or not running, Opteron servers instead of Intel's. It's fuzzy science, to be sure, but there's enough fuzz to go around. Intel prides itself in power conservation at the component level, but it refers to "typical" power utilization rather than the worst-case numbers it gives system engineers to guide their cooling system design. At least AMD is still publishing that worst-case number.

If you don't feel like playing Dr. Electron, you can leave some of it to me because I've now got an arsenal for measuring the effectiveness of green computing. I've come up with simple, objective formulas for calculating green-computing savings.

If you do like working in the details, there are three variables to measure: power consumption, heat, and noise. The closer you can get to an accurate measure of all three, the better your odds of charting your success at bringing down your total IT costs. But there are two shortcuts you can employ to get you on the right track until I start making with the science.

One shortcut is to measure any one of the three variables because they're all related. Power consumption has the most appeal because amps can be converted to watts, then watts over time to kilowatt-hours, and from there to real operating cost. But the cost of cooling complicates matters. The single most power-hungry machine in my facility is the air conditioner. It spends some of its energy cooling the equipment and some of it making the place livable. I could cancel out the human element by letting the room warm to a level where the equipment won't melt down, but I would. If I set up that scenario periodically, I could safely take cooling out of the equation.

If I were to turn the thermostat up first, I might not have to measure power draw at all to plot a savings trend. The less efficient a device is, the more heat it generates. Fans will have to spin faster to keep the system going, and faster fans always mean more noise. Noise is easy to measure with a single handheld device, and you get the added benefit of measuring the habitability of the environment.

Turning the AC off entirely yields another simple measure: How fast does it take to heat up the room? You can get a rough measure of the heat output of a single device by checking the temperature at its exhaust.

None of these processes yields hard and certain dollar savings, but they are adequate for tracking the progress you're making.

Or you could ignore this whole column and go with the lazy man's way of tracking power savings: Count the total number of power supplies.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Yager

Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?