Idle power
We start measuring idle power running on the two most “used” Power Plans of Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise (Hyper-V enabled): Balanced or High Performance. We described both Power Plans and the resulting effect on the server here. This is the power consumption of the complete system, measured at the electrical outlet.

Hyper-V idle power

The Xeon family has made large steps forward in the power management department: fine grained clock gating and core power gating reduces power significantly. This however also results in a very small difference between the low power Xeon and the “Performance” Xeon. When running in idle, the Power management hardware (PCU) shuts down 5 cores and clockgates all components of the remaining core that are not necessary. The result of all these hardware tricks is that it hardly matters if you run those CPUs at 1.6 GHz or 2.26/2.93 GHz. The power plan “balanced” allows the CPU to scale back to 1.6 GHz, the power plan “high performance” never clocks lower than the advertised clockspeed (2.26/2.93 GHz). The amazing thing is that even at the higher clockspeed and voltage, the CPU only needs 2W more at the power outlet. So the real difference at the CPU level is even lower.

Let us put some load on those servers.  One tile of vApus Mark I demands 12 virtual CPUs, and as we described before, it will demand about 25-45% of the dual CPU configuration.

Hyper-V average power running one vApusmark tile

If we calculate the average power, everything seems to be “as expected”. However, the problem with this calculation is that the some of the tests took longer than others. For example the test on the L5640 took about 66 minutes, while the Xeon X5670 needed only 59 minutes.

And that was a real surprise to us: as we were not loading the CPU to 100%, we did not expect that one test would take so much longer than the other. But you can clearly see that the fastest Xeon went more quickly to an idle state.

Hardware configuration and measuring power Response times and energy consumption


View All Comments

  • WillR - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    10p per kWh may be low in the UK but it's not for residential in the US. $.12/kWh is average. Just pulled out a bill from earlier this year and we paid 7.3 cents per kWh at my house. What it comes down to is the data center potentially overcharges people in the, using your numbers, 19 to 38 cents per kWh range, but rates can be higher than $.20/kWh in high density areas like NYC or SF. The extra costs should go to paying for upgrades and expansion of their infrastructure so it's not unreasonable.

    Worth mentioning to put in perspective is 4 250 watt servers uses 720kWh/month and the average house in the US uses 920kWh/month, so it's not really as simple a setup as one might initially think. provides a nice table of average rates and usages.
  • knedle - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    I'm not sure if you're aware, but in most countries residential has much (at least twice) lower price per 1kWh, than commercial. Also commercial pays extra for using electricity during the day, and gets electricity cheaper during night.
    This is why there are some factories in Europe that work only during night.
  • WillR - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    That is not the case in the US. Residential pays higher rates than either Commercial or Industrial users.

    Average Retail Price (Cents/kWh)
    Items Mar-10 Mar-09
    Residential 11.2 11.33
    Commercial 10.03 10.07
    Industrial 6.5 6.79

    Industrial settings tend to use very large amounts of energy in a very small area or number of clients so they get cheaper bulk rates for purchasing a lot with little administrative overhead. It's also often the case they can get a high voltage line installed directly to the plant which is expensive to install but increases efficiency dramatically.

    These averages may reflect heavy use of off-peak consumption, but most plants I've experienced operate 24/7. Much of it is politics and bargaining for a better rate on the contract.
  • DaveSylvia - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    Hey Johan, great article as usual! Always enjoyed and appreciated your articles including those from back in the day at Ace's Hardware! Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    Good memory :-). I have been part of Anand's team for 6 years now, that is the same amount of time that I spend at Ace's. Reply
  • DaveSylvia - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    Yeah! One of the first tech articles I recall reading was back in 1999. It was about how pipeline length influenced CPU clock speeds. You used Pentium II, K6, DEC Alpha's as examples :). All good stuff! Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    Or you could say that disabling turboboost (by using the power plan “balanced”) results in an 10% throughput disadvantage.

    Isn't there a power plan which lets the CPUs turbo up (as max performance does) and also lets them clock down if not needed (as balanced does)? It seems outright stupid to take turbo away from a Nehalem-like chip.

  • has407 - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    No reason you shouldn't be able to specify a power plan that does both, but for whatever reason it isn't provided out-of-the-box.

    I'd guess that given the relatively small difference in idle power between "performance" and "balanced" (which seems to be more of "power capped" plan), maybe they (presumably the OEM?) decided it wasn't worth it.

    There may also be stability issues with some system configurations or support concerns, as there's yet another set of variables to deal with.
  • has407 - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    Johan -- That brings up an interesting question: How much of the underlying CPU's power management are you testing vs. a particular vendor or OS configuration? I'd expect them to closely reflect each other assuming everyone has their job.

    As you're using Win 2008, it would be interesting to see what powercfg.exe shows for the various parameters for different modes and systems; e.g., "Busy Adjust Threshold", "Increase Policy", "Time Check", "Increase Percent", "Domain Accounting Policy" etc. Are there significant differences across systems/CPUs for the same profile?
  • Whizzard9992 - Thursday, July 15, 2010 - link

    Heat dissipation is also a concern, no? It's expensive to cool a datacenter. Low power should bring cooling costs down.

    There's also a question of density. You can fit more low-power cores into 1U of space because of the heat dissipation. Multi-node blades are cheaper than 2U workhorses. Rack space is expensive for a lot of reasons. Just look at the Atom HPC servers: I bet the Atom would score pretty low in performance-per-watt versus even the LP XEON, but its sheer size and thermal envelope fit it in places the XEON can't.

    Frankly, I'd be surprised if the low-power XEON saved "energy" at the same workloads versus full-power, given that both are on the same architecture. LP XEONs are really an architecture choice, and greasing the transition to many-cores via horizontal scaling. A good desktop analogy would be, "Is one super-fast core better than a slower multi-core?" Fortunately for the datacenter most servers only need one or the other.

    Also, with physical nodes scaling out horizontally, entire nodes can be powered down during down times, with significant power savings. This is software-bound, and I haven't seen this in action yet, but it's a direction nonetheless.

    Without getting into all of the details, I think a proper TCO analysis is in order. This article seems to really only touch on the actual power-consumption, where there are really no surprises. The full-power peaks performance a little better, and the LP stays within a tighter thermal-envelope.

    The value of low-power is really low-heat in the datacenter. I'd like to see something that covers node density and cooling costs as well. A datacenter with all LP-servers is unrealistic, seeing as how some applications that scale vertically will dictate higher-performing processors. It would be nice to see what the total cost would be for, say a 2,000 node data center with 80% LP population versus 20% LP population. The TDP suggests a 1/3 drop in cooling costs and 1/3 better density.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now