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4 Posts authored by: L_Wigle

Intel Goes Green(er)

Posted by L_Wigle Jan 30, 2008

Monday, the EPA announced Intel was #1 a top their Green Power Partner list, designating Intel as the largest purchaser of Green Power in the US.  The purchase was significant as it represented the largest single purchase in the history of the program which dates back more than ten years.  Since this announcement the press, blogs and  environmental pundits have commented on the significance of this purchase as a demonstration of Intel’s eco-responsibility, while emphasizing the potential positive impact it may towards driving greater demand and supply of renewable energy. 

The questions many inside of Intel been asking are along the lines of, “What are the implication and relevance of the Green Power announcement to our products and technology?  And then specifically to the Green IT trend?  The answers to these questions are two fold.  First, by purchasing renewable energy credits to over 40% of Intel’s projected US electricity requirements for our facilities and factories customers can be assured Intel is making real actions to reduce the impact on the environment as we design and produce our products. 

The second answer is one of role modeling as an example with decisions based on environmental impact and sustainability.  Intel brings to the table a consideration for data center operators to drive the direct cost reduction benefits with greater energy efficiency and to evaluate improvements in sustainability of operations by considering renewable energy.

This may not be as direct a call to action as the Climate Savers Computing Initiative or defined like Green Grid BKM’s, but we can all agree that more Green Power usage and availability at competitive costs is good for business and the environment.  As PSO pointed out in his ISMC opening keynote, Intel must lead and be a leader.  The Green Power purchase is a good example of the “Impact” we can make as a company through our responsible actions and citizenship.

So, what are you doing along the 'Green' lines?


There has been and will probably continue to be a significant amount of world wide press on energy concerns and ecological impacts.  The concern is so widespread that government agencies have renewed or escalated their plans to curb energy consumption and mitigate that aspect of global warming.  The renewed focus has escalated governmental investigations and policies on computing devices.  The primary organizations on the technical parameters and policies in the US are the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  and the US Department of Energy (DOE).  The enhancement of tools such as the EnergyStar 1 and Federal Energy Management Policy (FEMP) 2  has received attention and proliferation to other worldwide regulatory agencies in Europe, Japan, Canada, China/PRC, Taiwan, Australia, and other countries.



The EPA through Energy Star enacted a significant revision to the specifications for computing devices effective July, 2007 10 and is commissioning an update to that specification for July, 2009 16.  The EPA, along with it's research consultants, also investigated and published its assessment of energy usage in data centers, currently determined as ~ 60 Billion kWhrs annually in 2006 (~1.5% of electricity consumption in the US) with potential of hitting 120 B-kWhr/yr by 2011 3 . The data center report, world-wide focus on energy, and ecological impact has added political focus to accelerate energy efficiency programs & policies.



Intel has and continues to pursue research and development of energy efficiency technologies  and programs that aid in the energy efficiency and ecological sustainability of the IT infrastructure.  Intel was one of the first computer companies to establish Energy Star criteria for computers in the 1990's. Intel continues to be a key developer of standards such as ACPI, advanced energy storage techniques, and power management tools we see in mobile devices today. Intel continues to be a key developer in creating an industry-wide materials analysis and conversions to remove hazardous substances from our internal operations and products that Intel and the industry delivers (e.g. ReductionOfHazardous Substances program- RoHS 4 ).  Intel is also a significant contributor to current programs, such as Energy Star  , European Code of Conduct 5 , California's PIER program 6, Climate Savers 7, The Green Grid 8, and a host of other consortia.  Intel's technical contributions are not only to worldwide government and industry organizations, but, also research groups such as Lawrence Berkeley National Labs 9.



There are, however, numerous technical perspectives of options to promote, incent, and achieve energy efficiency in IT infrastructure and computing devices. A key regulatory and industry disagreement is curbing energy consumption verses incentivizing energy efficiency.  As one can observe in the Energy Star v4.0 specification10 , there exist the paradigmn that simply setting limits on "inactive" states will save energy.  Though this may work for single function devices such as a light bulb or a washing machine, multi-purpose devices and every changing applications make computing devices and services a much more difficult task.  The difficulty is to not impact the function or purpose, whereas reduce energy consumption to support the purpose.  A simple example of the resulting mixed incentive is evident in servers. A 21kW rack of yr2006 servers, would replace the function of many racks of yr2002 servers totaling 128kW; however, incentives based on "inactive" states promote the purchase of lower capability yr2002 based servers. Such a mix incentive policy not only curtails true energy efficiency innovations in the industry; but, places IT on a path of ever increasing energy consumption in pace with compute demand.



Intel's (and indeed the industry's) target is to modulate and track energy consumption to the "useful-work" accomplish (achieving the purpose).  The key challenge is to assess the usage models per market, and develop energy efficiency metrics and guidelines which promote ever improving energy efficiencies. Examples in this area, Intel is pursuing include, power_conversion efficiencies (Climate Savers), data center metrics and practices (The Green Grid), benchmarks ( 11,  ECMA 12), and power_management software ( 13, etc).  Though such activity takes time, the urgency impressed upon the industry by worldwide regulatory agencies, is critical for ecological sustainability. The alternative of using a mixed incentive approach (which also leads rise to more power consuming devices rather than fewer) will detract and divert the industry from holistic innovations to energy efficiency.



1 Energy Star,

2  Federal Energy Management Program,

3  EPA Data_center Energy Report,

4  Reduction Of Hazardous Substance (RoHS),

5 European Code of Conduct,

6 California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER),

7 Climate Savers,

8 The Green Grid,

9 Lawrence Berkeley National Labs,

10 Energy Star v4.0,


12 European Computer Manufacturers Association, ECMA,





Data Center Efficiency

Posted by L_Wigle Nov 14, 2007

Over the past months, you have likely heard about the challenges that data centers in the U.S. and world wide are facing. Energy costs - typically around 10% of an IT budget-could account for 50% of the average IT budget in just a few years.1 59% of ITs cite power and cooling as a growth limiter. 2 While those challenges may seem daunting, Intel sees many opportunities to improve energy efficiency in nearly every aspect of data center operation that consumes power.


Intel's recently announced Harpertown processors, based on 45nm technology, go a long way toward helping address the issues data centers are facing. Because they deliver up to 2X the performance-per-watt of prior Intel® Dual-Core processors in the same power envelope in the same socket, Intel Xeon® processor 5400 series enables a data center to double its compute capacity or maintain its current compute capacity using half the number of servers. Either way, the energy efficient performance improvements that are delivered are quite impressive.



What is often lost in the discussion of processor power and performance is the fact that they are small but important part of a larger data center system. This system is comprised of the IT equipment (servers, networking, and storage) as well as non-IT support equipment (power delivery, cooling and air handling, and other environmental controls). By looking at the data center holistically, IT organizations can better manage increased compute demands, lower their energy costs and reduce total cost of ownership.



The IT industry, driven by the work of groups such as The Green Grid, is developing a series of metrics to assess data center efficiency as the ratio of useful work output divided by total power consumed by the entire facility3. This holistic view of where the energy is being used has identified large energy efficiency gains in the operational practices of getting power to the IT equipment, where in many cases as little as 50% of the energy is going to the IT equipment.



There are number of approaches to increase data center efficiency based on this holistic view, and they vary widely in terms of investment required and energy savings. In addition to our energy efficient processors and systems, Intel is working collaboratively with industry partners and government organizations to accelerate development and adoption of technologies, products and best practices that can improve data center operations. Examples of options to consider include:



  • Purchasing higher efficiency power supplies and mother board components

  • Installing higher efficiency Uninterruptible Power Supplies and other power conversion equipment

  • Monitoring energy consumption and environmental conditions to develop operational energy policies

  • Employing Virtualization to increase utilization and consolidate servers in ratios up to 30:1

  • Use of hot & cold aisle layouts and floor vent tiles to prevent hot air from mixing with cold air

  • For a more detailed list of ways to increase the efficiency of your data center, click here


How well do you understand the total energy consumption and efficiency of your IT facility? It's likely that there are a number of ways that you can improve your operations to handle the increasing rack densities and growing demand for compute capacity - and make the CFO happy because the power bill goes down as well...


1. Source: Gartner, May 2007

2. Intel DC Users Group 06

3. The Green Grid Data Center Power Efficiency Metric.



Eco-Technology - what does this term mean and why would Intel use it instead of "Green Computing" or something more common?


Moore's Law gives us the ability to deliver more performance and greater energy efficiency with each generation of microprocessors - and reducing the energy consumption of our products is far and away the biggest impact Intel can have on carbon footprint.


We recently completed an analysis of a high-performance computing configuration that was originally deployed in 2002 (coming in at number 17 in the Top500 Supercomputer list for that year) and is still in use today. This configuration consists of 512 servers fit out into 25 racks using 128 kW and delivers 3.68 TFlops peak on the LINPACK benchmark. Today, that cluster could be replaced with a single rack of roughly 53 blade servers drawing 21 kW and still giving us that 3.7 TFlops of performance (Energy efficiency in the data center). More on whether that level of density is appropriate for everyone later.....



Think of the incredible increase in productivity - and new innovations - that have been made possible by this phenomenal growth in compute capacity. The explosion of information that's available at our fingertips and the evolution of many aspects of our global economy to bits instead of physical materials.



And that's really the point of "Eco-Technology" which is defined as an "eco-sensitive" approach to technology that takes into consideration sustainability in both manufacture and end-use of technology.



So we're increasing both the energy efficiency of our products and we're eliminating potentially harmful materials such as lead and halogen from our manufacturing, but we're also as an industry continuing to contribute to productivity and transformation. Both are important.


As companies explore their IT Sustainability programs and we all work to define what green computing should mean, what are your thoughts on how to balance the imperative to do more work, deliver more business value with the rising costs of energy and our collective desire to slow climate change? The US Environmental Protection Agency is contemplating Energy Star for servers. If you were in charge, what criteria would you use to award the label?



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