The future is performance per watt.

Given the way that the energy markets have gone during the past year, it was fairly obvious that there was going to be a focus on power, and performance per watt. Some may say that power is irrelevant and performance is key. While performance is important, performance per Watt is more important. Both Intel and AMD are focusing on ways of delivering more performance with less power - it is the future. We're facing rising energy prices everyday, and those numbers trickle down to everyone, whether you are drying your clothes, or running a few racks of servers at a datacenter.

Recently, we spoke to a bandwidth provider in one of the largest datacenters on the US east coast. The datacenter that this provider uses for its services is out of power. They can't add any more racks because the datacenter doesn't have enough power. We're not talking about a small datacenter either; this is a very large datacenter that serves some of the world's largest websites. They can't get anymore power because government regulations won't allow it; so, now what? They have to find ways to reduce power consumption.

Space is also a concern at most datacenters, so blade systems are becoming very popular at the datacenter. IDC recently forecasted that blade systems would reach 8% of the server market this year, from 2% a year ago. Blade systems may solve the space problem, but add to the power problem, as you end up with a more power-dense environment.

Intel's performance per watt play won't come into full effect until next year, with Woodcrest. Rough numbers for Woodcrest put it at somewhere in the 80Watt range or less. If you think back over the past few years at how the focus has been all about performance, people seem to have overlooked where AMD is in terms of performance per Watt. The Opteron has been competitive with Intel since its inception not only on performance, but delivering that performance in a lower power envelope. The Opteron 280 processor is a 95 Watt part already, and has been very competitive with Intel's Xeon.

Intel Power/Performance Roadmap

Index Test Configuration


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  • coldpower27 - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    And I am interested how did you get a difference of $8140 to begin with. Reply
  • Furen - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    I took a lot of shortcuts just to get a rough approximation but here it goes:

    406W - 260W = 166W
    166W * 24H/day = 3984WH/day
    3984WH/day * 365 days = 1,454,160WH/year = 1,454kWH/year
    1,454kWH/year * $.14/kWH (which is overpriced, by the way, since consumers normally pay more than businesses) = $203.58/year

    $203.58/year * 40 systems = $8143.30/year for 40 systems.
  • Viditor - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    Good point...forgot about the power conversion and power supply loss. Reply
  • Furen - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    I didn't mean PSU power loss, but rather that many data centers convert the AC input to DC at the distribution centers and the convert it to AC again just before sending it to the server, since servers are not built to operate on DC.

    PSU loss is already reflected in anadtech's measurements, since power consumption is measured at the plug.
  • Furen - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    man, I would kill for an edit function on comments... Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link


    The actual difference between running 40 Opteron Systems & 40 Bensley Systems for 1 Year @ 40-60% Load comes to a difference of $5890.4 ~ 1/10 the amount Anandtech reports

    You're forgetting the cost of cooling (which is much higher than just the CPU...)
  • coldpower27 - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    They are measuring total power draw of the 2 systems which includes the energy used by the cooling system. I am not forgeting anything. I am only interested in cost of electricity used by the 2 systems.

    Anandtech isn't incorporating cost of cooling into it's numbers either.
  • Jason Clark - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    If we had complete systems from both vendors, this would have been possible. Unfortunately, we had a pre-production validation platform and a motherboard and two cpus from amd :)... So, what we did was make the bensley system as close to the open air opteron system as we could. I agree, we need to get some complete systems with their cooling mechanisms in place, and we'll work on the vendors next year for that. Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    The cooling systems I refer to are the airconditioning, not the HSF or the case fans...
    By doubling the heat output, you are also doubling the air con requirements.
  • coldpower27 - Friday, December 16, 2005 - link

    Which would be offset by the heating provided in the Winter time. Reply

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