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July 9, 2012

Plug In and Power Down

Robert Gelber

The electricity fueling processor cores and memory at the heart of servers creates high operational costs, while adding a hefty impact to the environment. This has led to the funding of green projects, focused on increasing power efficiency in datacenters. Last week, FIT4Green announced a breakthrough that can reduce a considerable amount of the energy used by compute clusters.

Formed in January of 2010, FIT4Green is a EU-funded project tasked with improving energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions. The organization set out to achieve their goal by developing a power-aware plug-in that sits atop management tools. The software is designed to work across different types of workloads and has been validated at the Italian energy company ENI (service/enterprise), Jülich Supercomputing Centre (HPC), and HP (cloud computing).

Project researchers say their software can deliver 20 percent, and in some cases, up to 50 percent direct energy savings. As a result, CO2 emissions were also reduced in proportion to the lesser amount of power used. Energy savings also led to additional savings due to the reduced need for cooling.

At its core, the FIT4Green plug-in reallocates workloads. Once jobs have been consolidated, unused equipment is subsequently turned off. The group maintains that their plug-in does not affect Service Level Agreements (SLA) or Quality of Service (QoS) Metrics. The technology has also been tested among a variety of datacenters with differing workloads.

On the HPC front, the project worked with two test clusters, ‘Juggle’ and ‘Jufit,’ housed at the Jülich. A paper describes how the plug-in was able to reduce single-site power consumption by 27.3 percent when the systems had no workload. As utilization increased, energy savings would decrease. This scenario makes sense, as higher utilization leaves less room for job consolidation.

Even better results were observed using a federated model. In this case, jobs would be prioritized based on speed or efficiency. In this case, the FIT4Green software was able to reduce energy consumption by up to 51.7 percent. Savings were achieved by placing unused servers into standby mode and by allocating jobs at different datacenters based on optimal energy efficiencies. 

The group has made 16 public deliverables available for free on their website. The plug-in code has also been released as open-source software.