Dell Unveils 'Green' Servers

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Computer maker Dell's solution to the data center energy crisis is to market more energy-efficient versions of its PowerEdge line of servers.

Dell is introducing today the PowerEdge Energy Smart model 1950 and 2950 servers, which the company claims deliver a 25 percent improvement in performance per watt compared to the standard 1950 and 2950.

The announcement follows Dell's September launch of Energy Smart OptiPlex business desktop computers.

Energy Smart Specs

The Energy Smart server features include a processor that draws only 40 watts of power versus the 65 watts or 80 watts drawn in standard servers. Energy Smart servers will also offer only 2.5-inch disk drives, smaller than the typical 3.5-inch drives.

Those design changes may diminish performance in a way some customers would find unacceptable, said Jay Parker, director of PowerEdge Servers in the Dell Product Group. But for others, the goal is energy efficiency.

"We would expect somewhere in the 10 to 20 percent range of our customers to be interested in this product and to ultimately migrate to this. But there is a whole other set of customers who need more configurability or [for whom] power efficiency is not a priority," Parker said.

The Energy Smart servers also feature redesigned power supplies and cooling fans, as well as software that regulates the processors and memory to power the server up and down as computing demand changes.

Pricing for the Energy Smart 1950 starts at $2449, $100 more than the standard 1950, Parker said. Pricing for the Energy Smart 2950 starts at $2619.

Conserving Power

Vendors of servers, desktops, and other enterprise hardware are on an energy-saving kick these days, addressing the need to cut data-center power consumption. The lifetime operating cost of powering servers and cooling them with air conditioning is becoming more of a concern to data center managers than the price of the server itself.

Hewlett-Packard unveiled on November 28 what it calls "Dynamic Smart Cooling" for data centers. Heat sensors on server racks send signals to a control panel that adjusts the air-conditioning output.

HP's technology doesn't address the energy problem as directly as Dell does by making the server energy-efficient, Parker said.

"You have to optimize the server, because ultimately that has a huge ripple effect on the other infrastructure pieces in the data center. In our mind [HP's technology] seems to ignore the first obvious step, which is to address the server itself," he said.

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