IBM launches real-time mainframe energy gauge

Big iron gets appliance-style energy consumption chart.

IBM has launched a program that it claimed allows mainframe users to monitor their systems' energy consumption in real-time.

IBM said it would start publishing typical energy consumption data for its System z9 mainframe and that the data would be derived from field measurements of about 1,000 live production machines. The measurements will determine average watts/hour consumed which can be used to calculate watts per unit, similar to kilometres per litre estimates and appliance kilowatt per year ratings.

The metering system works by monitoring a mainframe's energy and cooling statistics as collected by internal sensors and presents them in real time on the System Activity Display, said IBM. Users can then correlate the energy consumed with work actually performed and, when the machine reports its maintenance health on a weekly basis, its power statistics can be used. These statistics can be observed real time or summarized for project or trend analysis, said IBM. The company reckoned that energy consumption statistics are used for demonstrating cost savings toward electric rebates and programs to reduce data center energy consumption.

Big Blue said that it has a power estimator tool available to enable future planning. It calculates how changes in system configurations and workloads can affect the entire energy envelope -- including the power needed to both run and cool the machines.

For example, a user adding a single mainframe processor for Linux applications could project the amount of additional energy required before and when the feature is turned on, according to IBM. Normally less than approximately 20 watts are added when an Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) feature is turned on, reckoned the company.

Big Blue said that a mainframe processor with zVM virtualization can typically perform the work of multiple x86 processors because a mainframe is designed for running many mixed workloads at high utilization rates. It claimed that a single processing chip executing hundreds of workloads efficiently is key to consuming less energy than multiple x86 servers, and that this translates into a simplified infrastructure and cost savings.

IBM said that it collected data for August and September 2007 which showed that typical energy use can be normally 60 per cent of the "label" or maximum rating for the model of mainframe measures. The company said that this allowed it to claim to be the first organization to embrace recommendations from a recent EPA report that encourages server vendors to publish typical energy consumption figures for servers.

IBM said that the metering system was being launched in tandem with a new program to publish consolidated real-world consumption figures by model for System z9. Typical use figures will assist data center planning as they will give data center designers an idea of how much energy a particular mainframe consumes.

IBM said that it's summarized the field population data for each month since 2 August 2007, when the US EPA published the report to US Congress on Data Center and Server Energy Efficiency. The EPA encouraged server vendors to publish typical energy usage numbers to enable purchasers of servers to make informed decisions based on energy efficiency.

"The mainframe's high utilization rates and extreme virtualization capability may help make it a more energy-efficient choice for large enterprises," said David Anderson PE, IBM green consultant. "A single mainframe running Linux may be able to perform the same amount of work as approximately 250 x86 processors while using as little as two to ten percent of the amount of energy. Customers can now measure the energy advantages of IBM System z."

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Manek Dubash
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