Green Power in Small Packages

By Bob Carlson, Criterion HPS

You don’t have to look far to see the latest headline about the data center energy crisis and the quest for a viable energy reduction strategy that allows data centers to run mission-critical applications while reducing power and cooling costs. Data centers worldwide use more power than nation-states like Argentina and the Netherlands and on average consume the energy-equivalency of 25,000 households. Taking into account all the current strategies to reduce power consumption, energy usage is still projected to quadruple by 2020.1 According to a recent Gartner survey, 70% of CIO's identify power and/or cooling issues as their single largest data center problem.2

The majority of proposed energy-efficient solutions attempt to channel and manage the heat created from the data center in innovative ways. Whether these are new venting systems, heat-zone management frameworks or refrigerated cabinets, these solutions come with hefty initial price tags, long term pay backs and don’t actually attack the core problem of massive energy consumption…. until now.

A new-generation of chipsets that are migrating Moore’s Law from the individual processing chip to the motherboard are paving the way for an emerging solution—optimized solution servers— that fundamentally solves the data center energy crisis. Optimized solution servers green the data center by attacking the standard configuration and solving the root cause by just using less energy. Optimized solution servers offer a migration path to Green that provides an immediate financial payback for CIOs.

Optimized solution servers are small, low-power, high performance computing systems that are ideal for running enterprise class software. These systems deliver more processing power per square foot and require only a single 110V/20Amp circuit pulling less than 650 watts of power. This results in approximately 2300 BTUs—less heat output than a standard hair dryer. These energyefficient servers have a small form factor (5.25”x17”x19”) and weigh roughly 50 pounds.

Optimized solution servers take advantage of the convergence of two mega trends in the IT market. The first, Green IT, is driving component manufacturers to focus on dramatically reducing the power requirements for their individual components. These manufacturers have moved away from the historical design assumption that ‘data center power was abundant and free’ to the current reality that data center power is a scarce resource.

The second trend is dramatic changes in motherboard architecture that can support 4 or 8 sockets. With the release of the second generation of theIntel’s Nehalem microarchitecture, manufacturers have transitioned their product roadmaps to deliver chips with increasing number of computing cores. In the future the notional Moore’s Law will expand to embrace both the ongoing increase of density of transistors on a dye and the ability to increase the number of computing sockets on a single motherboard.

These energy efficient components and the latest generation of high performance chips provide the foundation for optimized solution servers. As an industry, we are seeing optimized solution server manufacturers partner with software companies to integrate hardware, operating system and application software on an optimized 64 bit server to deliver breakthrough performance while using less power.

To date, more than 25 recognized software manufacturers have benchmarked popular enterprise applications, including business analytics, cyber forensics, and Microsoft applications, on these platforms.3 The collective benchmarks show that multiple racks of traditional data center equipment can be consolidated onto a single optimized solution server implementation. This means using less data center floor space, eliminating significant HVAC requirements, and lowering the cost of UPS. Optimized solution server implementations use 80 percent less power than current technology. In a recent virtualization test, a single optimized solution server supported a virtual machine on 5 watts of power compared to the industry average of 35-40 watts required by current technology.

Based on leading edge COTS components, optimized solution servers reduce data center energy consumption and carbon footprints, allowing enterprises to become green in the process.


  1. James M. Kaplan, William Forest, Noah Kindler, “Revolutionizing Data Center Energy Efficiency,” McKinsey & Company, July 2008.
  2. Mike Chuba and John R. Phelps, “Observations from the 2009 U.S. Data Center Conference,” Gartner, January 14, 2010.
  3. SAS Institute Inc., SAS® 9.2 Mixed Analytic Tests on Linux Criterion Phantom, 2009. The SAS benchmark is one of several published benchmark tests on the Criterion HPS high performance platform.

Mr. Carlson’s 26 year career has paralleled the growth of the information technology industry from back office automation to strategic business process enabler. Both as an IBM executive and as the CEO of 2 start-up companies, Mr. Carlson has specialized in developing and implementing leading-edge business solutions that provide competitive advantage through the systematic exploitation of technology. He is now focused on the rapidly growing optimized solution server market and leading business development and product initiatives for Criterion HPS.