Intel examines green benefits of cloud computing

EMC is working with Intel on a more energy-efficient version of the Atmos cloud storage system.

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EMC is working with Intel on a more energy-efficient version of the Atmos cloud storage system.

It is one of several ways that Intel is working with other vendors to design more power-efficient systems for companies offering cloud computing services, the company’s general manager Jason Waxman said.

The chip maker also announced a program with software vendors to test software management stacks for use in large, scale-out datacentres.

Atmos is a hardware and software platform used mainly by service providers to manage multi-petabyte storage systems that can be spread across several datacentres. AT&T's pay-as-you-go Synaptic hosting service is based on Atmos, for example, according to EMC.

Power management is the top concern for EMC's customers, said Michael Feinberg, senior vice president with EMC's cloud infrastructure group. Besides the cost per megawatt, many customers are being constrained by the power capacity of their datacentres, he said.

EMC can do some things to make Atmos more power-efficient, such as turning off disks when they are not in use. "But we do not right now have the ability to manage power at the server level," Feinberg said.

EMC hopes to release a version of Atmos in the second half of next year that will be able to do just that, using Intel power management tools that are supported by its 5500-series Nehalem processors.

The Nehalem chips work with Intel's Node Manager tool, which can turn down the clock speed of its chips when they don't need to work at full capacity, reducing power consumption. They also work with its Data Center Manager software, which can cap the amount of power drawn by a pool of servers based on various policies.

The companies are testing pilot systems that integrate the power management tools with Atmos, giving customers the option to power down server processors when demand on the systems is light. They hope to release it as a "turnkey solution" in the second half of next year, Feinberg said.

They didn't provide many other details, and it wasn't clear whether the capabilities would be included in the price of Atmos or sold as an add-on.

In pilot tests, the combined system has reduced power consumption at the rack level by 15 percent, according to Prasada Rampalli, Intel director for end-user platform integration. "When you multiply that across 100,000 servers, that's a lot of money," he said.

Intel also announced the Cloud Builder Program, where it's working with software vendors to test software stacks for managing datacentres that use virtualization to manage workloads across a high volume of Intel-based servers.

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