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Power Down

It's no secret that power consumption is a worrying issue among datacenter managers. As system hardware becomes cheaper and energy costs continue to rise, IT managers might find that they'll spend more to power and cool a system over its lifetime than to actually buy it.

Which is why guys like Dan Pritchett, a technical fellow at eBay, has moved beyond thinking about transactions per second (TPS) with his applications to focusing on transactions per second per watt (TPS/w).

"One of the primary challenges we started to face in 2006 was power. The datacenters were maxed out and we were still running at capacity," said Pritchett, who noted that local municipalities were often physically incapable of delivering enough power to meet eBay's growing energy needs.

Power consumption and efficiency are hardly new; mobile platforms have obsessed about these issues for years. But the need to reduce power consumption in server and even client applications has become acute enough that some development organizations are actively seeking ways to do more with less -- be it in the datacenter or on the desktop.

Check out this interesting article, titled "The Case for Energy-Proportional Computing," for more on the energy consuming habits of modern servers.

Virtualization has played a huge role in datacenter operations, enabling companies like Google and eBay to maintain ample hardware redundancy while driving up utilization -- a key for energy-efficient design.

But dev shops can do more, Pritchett said. He urged dev managers to look to established best practices and to focus on efficient, scalable designs. At eBay, for instance, databases are always sharded -- split into smaller pieces -- to produce optimal scaled performance. "Those things definitely come at a cost," Pritchett said. "But if you are wanting to move into hundreds of millions of entities in your system, and you're wanting to deal with tens or hundreds of millions of transactions per day, that's what you are going to move to."

He also urged developers to work toward parallel programming, so that fully threaded code can work efficiently across multicore processors. "I think going forward this is definitely going to be a huge issue. We are going to start having to leverage the parallelization of the hardware into the app space," he said.

Are you worried about the energy efficiency of your apps? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/29/2008

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