Researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a device that has the potential to monitor and save the energy consumed by large data centers.
Developed at the request of Credit Suisse, EPFL researchers created the Power Monitor System and Management (PMSM) to monitor and track the power consumption of a data center. More than that, however, the PMSM also has the capacity to distribute the workload among several servers, and vice versa: “Two servers running at 40% of their capacity each, consume much more than only one at 80%” explained David Atienza, director of the Embedded Systems Laboratory (ESL), where the program was created.
The system consists of an electronic box comprising a set of sensors. Each one of them can be connected either to the racks’ main power or directly to one of the cables supplying energy to the electronic components of the server. By measuring the current passing through it at some point, the sensor can gauge the power used, log the energy consumption variations and control that the system does not overheat. The information recorded is transmitted to a central server where the PMSM software is running. It is then processed together with other data – such as the room temperature or the priorities of the ongoing operations- and the system creates a table showing the evolution of the servers’ energy consumption, which can be accessed remotely and in real time.
According to David Atienza the PMSM can achieve energy savings “of at least 30%, and even up to 50% less of what is consumed today.”
The PMSM has already been installed on the racks of approximately 5200 servers in Credit Suisse’s data center in Zurich. According to Marcel Ledergerber, responsible for the management of this complex, the solution proposed by the ESL laboratory is particularly attractive to them since it contributes to a process of “server virtualization” that the bank has been undergoing for some years already. Such a process aims at progressively reducing the number of servers hosting a gradually greater computing power. “The PMSM system allows us to concentrate our machines in a smaller space,” he said. “The specific information that it provides allows us to better control the issues of temperature, and thus manage our installations more safely.”
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