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Benchmark group tackles server energy efficiency

Now that power consumption is of growing financial, practical, and environmental concern, an industry group hopes to shine a light on how efficient computers are.

The Transaction Processing Performance Council has released a new benchmark called TPC-Energy for measuring how much work computers get done for a given amount of energy.

The move reflects the growing concern with power efficiency given environmental issues such as carbon footprint and financial issues involving the cost of electricity for running computers and cooling data centers.

The group already has developed a variety of server benchmarks: TPC-C and the newer TPC-E for database performance and TPC-H for data warehouse performance. TPC-Energy in effect does a little extra math on those tests to yield a "watts per performance" score, the group said in an announcement this week.

TPC has 24 members from the computing industry, including all the major server manufacturers--though with Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems two members are now one.

"In recent years, the number of global server installations has increased exponentially. The amount of energy required to operate, run and cool them has increased to keep pace, and energy consumption is now commonly identified as one of the three most important criteria for IT purchases. Buyers require an objective method of comparing price, performance and energy consumption in order to select equipment that best fits their requirements," said Mike Nikolaiev, chairman of the TPC-Energy committee, in a statement.

Benchmarks are a useful way to compare the value of different systems, although inevitably they tend to emphasize particular workloads and often can be gamed with unrealistic configurations. Another challenge: it can be difficult to get manufacturers to run benchmarks, which particularly in the case of servers can be an expensive, time-consuming undertaking.

The 55-page TPC-Energy report (PDF) is available from the council's Web site.