Intel releases power management tool for data centers

This software development tool kit allows companies to reduce energy costs in data centers.

Intel on Thursday announced Data Center Manager software tool kit that can reduce the power drawn by servers in data centers by tapping into hardware resources.

This software development tool kit allows companies to build software to manage or cap power consumption by individual servers or a group of servers, which could reduce energy costs in data centers, Intel said. The company isn't providing end-user software, just a tool kit to build it.

The Data Center Manager (DCM) middleware built from the tool kit could dynamically adapt power consumption by servers based on changing workloads and power needs, said Jon Khazam, vice president and general manager at Intel's manageability and middleware division. DCM can be attached to existing system management software as an console or as a Web service, Khazam said.

Power consumption is provisioned by DCM through communication with Intel's Intelligent Power Node Manager software tool installed on the chipset of each server. The middleware instructs Node Manager to set power limits for servers based on the level of activity. For example, DCM can cap power consumption on inactive servers while raising the power bar on active servers.

The tool is designed for use on servers running Intel's Xeon 5500 chips, which include motherboards with the Node Manager software. The software tool kit won't work effectively with servers based on old Intel chips as they don't have the necessary thermal management capabilities built in, Khazam said. Nor will the software tool kit work with proprietary power management tools from companies like IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

Though HP offers Xeon 5500 chips in many of its servers, it has included its own power management technology to manage and cap power consumption. HP has included 32 sensors in some servers that can track and dynamically reduce server power consumption. Sensors measure thermal activity of components like fans, and algorithms use the data to adjust operation of the components to cool systems more efficiently.

To use the DCM middleware, users many need to get rid of the old power management tools, Khazam said. Software built using the DCM tool kit can manage up to 1,000 servers, but the number will be expanded in the future.

Intel didn't reveal pricing for the tool kit, saying it depended on customers and server installations.

Intel officials in February said that power consumption and cooling accounts for up to 23 percent of server deployments, and is one of the biggest areas for companies to cut costs. Intel is taking steps on the software and hardware front to help cut energy costs.

It has introduced new motherboards with voltage regulations that reduce power drawn to 85 watts in idle when running cloud computing applications, compared to 115 watts for standard Nehalem-based boards. A reduction of 30 watts per server could save up to US$8 million in three years in a deployment of 50,000 servers, Intel has said.

The company is also providing software tools like compilers and debuggers to improve performance and analyze software code. Optimizing the code helps execute tasks more quickly and efficiently while using fewer system resources. That could save up $20 million over three years in a 50,000 server deployment, the company has said.

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