Saving Power at Idle

Efficiency is very important in many scenarios, so let's start by checking out idle power consumption. We quickly realized that many servers would use simpler boards with much fewer chips than our ASUS P9D-MH, especially in micro servers. It is also clear that it is very hard to make a decent apples-to-apples comparison as the boards are very different. The Xeon 1200 V3 board (ASUS) is very feature rich, the Intel board of our Xeon E3 is simpler, and the board inside the HP m300 is bare bone.

But with some smart measurements and some deduction we can get there. By disabling SAS controllers and other features, we can determine how much a simpler board would consume, e.g. a Xeon E3 board similar to the one in the m300. To estimate the range and impact of the motherboard and other components, we also test the Xeon E3-1230L v3 in two other situations: running on the Supermicro board with cooling not included and on the feature rich ASUS P9D (a small fan is included here). You can find the results below.

Idle Power Consumption
(*) Calculated as if the Xeon E3 was run in an "m300-ish" board.

The Supermicro nodes are quite efficient, with less than 29W per node. We measured this by dividing the measurement of four nodes by four. However, out of the box the fans have a tendency to run at high RPM, resulting in a power consumption of 7W per node in idle and up to 10W per node under load.

The m400 cartridge has eight DIMMs (instead of four) and a 10 Gbit controller (Mellanox Connect-X3 Pro Dual 10 Gbe NIC, disabled). Those features will probably consume a few watts. But this is where reality and marketing collide. If you just read newsbits about the ARM ecosystem, it is all robust and mature: after all, ARM's 64-bit efforts started back in 2012. The reality is that building such an ecosystem takes a lot of time and effort. The ARM server software ecosystem is – understandably – nowhere near the maturity of x86. One peak at the ARM 64-bit kernel discussion and you'll see that there is a lot of work to be done: ACPI and PCIe support for example are still works in progress.

The X-Gene in the HP m400 cartridge runs on a patched kernel that is robust and stable. But even if we substract about 5W for the extra DIMMs and disabled 10GbE NIC, 32W is a lot more than what the Atom C2750 requires. When running idle, the Atom C2750, the four low voltage 8GB DDR3 DIMMs, the 120GB SSD, and the dual 1GbE controller need no more than 11W. Even if we take into account that the power consumption of fans is not included, it shows how well HP engineered these cartridges and how sophisticated the Intel power management is.

For your information, the m350 cartridge goes even lower: 21W for four nodes. Of course, these amazing power figures come with some hardware limitations (two DIMMs per node, only small M.2 flash storage available).

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  • gdansk - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    xgene is not looking so great. Even if it is 50% more efficient as they promise they'll still be behind Atom. Reply
  • Samus - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    HP Moonshot chassis are still *drool* Reply
  • Krysto - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    The main problem with the non-Intel systems is not only that they use older processes compared to Intel, but that they use older processes even compared to the rest of the non-Intel chip industry. AMD is typically always behind 1 process node among non-Intel chip makers. If they'd at least use the cutting edge processes as they become available from non-Intel processes, maybe they'd stand a chance, especially now that the gap in process technologies is shrinking. Reply
  • Samus - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    AMD simply isn't as bad as people continually make them out to be. Yes, they're "behind" Intel but it's all in the approach. We are talking about two engineering houses that share nothing in common but a cross licensing agreement. AMD has very competitive CPU's to Intel's i5's for nearly half the price, but yes, they use more power (at times 1/3 more.)

    But facts are facts: AMD is the second high-tech CPU manufacture in the world. Not Qualcomm, not Samsung. It's pretty obvious AMD engineering talent spreads more diversity than anyone other than Intel, and potentially superior to Intel on GPU design (although this has obviously been shifting over the years as Intel hires more "GPU talent.")

    AMD in servers is a hard pill to swallow though. If purchasing based on price alone, it can be a compelling alternative, but for rack space or low-energy computing?
    Reply
  • Taneli - Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - link

    AMD doesn't even make it in top 10 semiconductor companies in sales. Qualcomm is three, Samsung semicondutors six and Intel almost ten times the size of AMD.

    Outside of the gaming consoles they are being completely overrun by competition.
    Reply
  • owan - Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - link

    I'm sorry, at one point I was an AMD fanboy, back when they actually deserved it based on their products, but you just sound like an apologist. Facts are the facts, FX processors aren't competitive with i5's in performance or power or performance/$ because they get smacked so hard they can't be cheap enough to make up for it. Their CPU designs are woefully out of date, their APU's are bandwidth starved and use way too much power to be useful in the one place they'd be great (mobile), and their lagging process tech means theres not much better coming on the horizon. I don't want to see them go, but at the rate ARM is eating up general computing share, it won't be long before AMD becomes completely irrelevant. It will be Intel vs. ARM and AMD will be an afterthought. Reply
  • xenol - Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - link

    Qualcomm is used in pretty much used in most cell phones in the US to the point you'd think Qualcomm is the only SoC manufacturer. I'm pretty sure that's also how it looks in most of the other markets as Korea. Plus even if their SoCs aren't being used, they're modems are heavily used.

    If anything, Qualcomm is bigger than AMD. Or rather, Qualcomm is the Intel of the SoC market.
    Reply
  • xenol - Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - link

    [Response to myself since I can't edit]
    Qualcomm's next major competitor is Apple. But that's about it.

    Also I meant to say other markets except Korea.
    Reply
  • CajunArson - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    Bear in mind that the Atom parts were commercially available in 2013, so they are by no means brand-new technology and the 14nm Atom upgrades will definitely help power efficiency even if raw performance doesn't jump a whole lot.

    Anandtech is also a bit behind the curve because Intel is about to release Xeon-D (8 Broadwell cores and integrated I/O in a 45 watt TDP, or lower), which is designed for exactly this type of workload and is going to massively improve performance in the low-power envelope sphere:

    http://techreport.com/review/27928/intel-xeon-d-br...
    Reply
  • SarahKerrigan - Monday, March 9, 2015 - link

    14nm server Atom isn't coming.

    http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1325955

    "Atom will become a consumer only SoC."
    Reply

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