New HP, IBM Servers Tackle Power Issues

May 26, 2006 (11:05 AM EDT)

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Hewlett-Packard and IBM are adding advanced power management capabilities to their new servers as the industry continues to focus on heat and power issues in the data center.

The two vendors will include with their respective server management software the ability to monitor power consumption from a single server or group of servers. Tapping into Intel’s SpeedStep technology, which can throttle down a processor during dips in loads, the software also lets system managers set maximum power draws for the day to help control power and heat issues in a rack.

The software will ship with servers using Intel’s Xeon 5000 and 5100 next-generation processors, unveiled last week, but both companies said they will make it available on Opteron-based systems in the future. HP, Palo Alto, Calif., said its software will ship immediately with the servers, while IBM, Armonk, N.Y., will initially offer power metering and add more advanced power capping later this year. Servers are expected to be available in June.

Solution providers say power consumption is becoming an issue for large and small customers alike as more processing power is packed into existing spaces. Complicating the issue is the trend toward server consolidation and virtualization.

“There are a lot of customers running into power limitations,” said Bill Nemesi, brand manager at Mainline Information Systems, an IBM business partner in Tallahassee, Fla., “particularly customers with blade centers or a large number of servers.”

The new features will help improve total cost of ownership for customers and differentiate the systems from more generic Dell servers, he said.

Jeffrey Hewitt, a research director at Gartner, agrees. “The software allows these vendors to drive some differentiation,” he said. “They can outflank smaller competitors and the Dells of the world.”

VARs can expect power management advances to move quickly. HP recently debuted a fan and optimized blade chassis to improve cooling. Its research arm has been looking at ways to automate power and cooling in the data center, such as installing sensors to monitor heat. IBM, meanwhile, said it is looking to automate power management, application performance and more.