|Google's Energy Savings Push May Power Larger Industry Initiative|
By John Fontana
September 28, 2006
While Google made a big splash this week over its willingness to share its power
efficiency secrets, the online giant actually is wading into a larger
industry-wide power saving movement.
The issue is that power usage by PCs and servers historically has not been very
efficient on several fronts. Billions of dollars in wasted energy hangs in the
balance and that is money that computer users and corporations can take to the
bank, experts say.
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Check“I have been around computer energy issues for years and there is a
disconnect between those who pay the energy bill and get the benefits of savings
and those who have control over equipment that draws the energy,” says Kent
Dunn, senior program manager for 80Plus. He says IT shops sharing in the savings
benefits will provide incentives to move to power efficient machines.
The 80Plus initiative is an electric utility-funded incentive program to
integrate more energy-efficient power supplies into desktop computers and
servers. Manufacturers that adopt the 80Plus specification get money back from
utilities when they sell machines into that utilities region. 80Plus, which has
some $5 million in its coffers, plans to announce its first major manufacturing
partner in the coming weeks, Dunn says.
And he says he hopes Google will bring visibility to the issue having proved
that energy efficiency is really just a code word for cost savings.
Google estimates that if its internally developed power efficiency technology,
which Google uses in its server farms, were deployed in 100 million PCs running
for an average of eight hours per day, it would save 40 billion kilowatt-hours
over three years, or more than $5 billion at California’s energy rates.
The technology does not force IT to change anything in their environment other
than buy power efficient machines during normal upgrades.
Google distinguished engineer Luiz Barroso presented the company’s findings and
articulated a solution during this week’s Intel Developers Forum.
“There are several hard technical problems surrounding power efficiency of
computers, but we've found one that is actually not particularly challenging and
could have a huge impact on the energy used by home computers and low-end
servers: increasing power supply efficiency,” Barroso wrote on the Google blog.
The problem today is that power supplies for PCs and servers convert alternating
current (AC) from the outlet to direct current (DC) needed by the machine and
typically waste 30% to 45% of their input power, according to a white paper
authored by Google engineers Urs Hoelzle and Bill Weihl
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years, Google has developed power supplies that run at 90% efficiency.
“We're sharing a [power supply] design that saves energy and we're hoping the
industry can move to adopt something similar as a standard,” says Google
spokesman Barry Schnitt.
The current problems lie in outdated power designs for computers.
When PCs were first introduced, power supplies provide multiple voltages to
satisfy the needs of the PC’s internal chip. With modern day machines, that is
no longer the case and Google is now proposing a PC standard, which it already
uses in the servers it builds for its server farm, that uses a simple 12-volt
power supply and other voltages needed by the machine are handled by motherboard
components generated via voltage regulator modules.
Google says the changes will add about $20 to the price of the power supply but
that will be offset with cost savings.
The company understands that it is wading into an area that has active
initiatives such as 80Plus, which Google thinks is complementary to its work.
“We've recently reached out to them and look forward to exploring ways we may be
able to work together to promote more energy efficient computers,” Google’s
He says Google also has been talking to many vendors and groups across the
industry to foster collaboration. The company has started a feedback loop at
Dunn at 80Plus says while power supply changes are easy to make and for IT to
adopt, even more cost savings live in power management technology, such as
software developed by Verdiem.
The company, which develops power management software called Surveyor designed
to cut IT power consumption by managing power options of individual computers
from a central location.
The company earlier this month was awarded a contract by the state of
Washington's Department of Information Services, and Surveyor is already running
in several Washington State school districts. Those districts are expecting to
cut energy consumption on average by approximately 200 kilowatts per PC per year
for a savings of thousands of dollars.
“Network power management savings can be double or triple what you get with the
efficient power supplies" Google is talking about, Dunn says. He says in
combination the two things could virtually eliminate energy waste in PCs.“In the
aggregate, we are talking about extremely big dollar savings.”
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savings can extend beyond just energy.
Verdiem CEO Kevin Klustner says his company has relationships with Southern
California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric, which provide rebates to users
who deploy the Verdiem software.
“The pay back covers a fair amount of the list price for users that install it,”
Klustner says. “And this is not an invasive way to wring out cost savings.”
Surveyor is priced at $20 per seat and Klustner said a typical installation will
pay for itself in 12 to 18 months. “This allows the IT group to stand up and say
we are saving energy and saving money.”