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Enterprises feeling the financial heat in densely packed data centers are turning to chip makers, OEMs and software vendors for help in managing power and cooling issues.

Solutions are coming on a number of fronts. This month, chip makers Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. will detail plans for cooler-running systems that feature improved processor performance with reduced energy consumption.

Meanwhile, American Power Conversion Corp. is improving specialized server racks with integrated cooling capabilities.

The major OEMs, for their part, are offering design services to help businesses set up energy-efficient data centers, and software makers are rolling out products that distribute workloads and manage server power.

The efforts come as heat and power concerns threaten to overcome enterprise IT. According to Bobby Jefferson, IT director at Hillco Ltd. in Kinston, N.C., “It’s been getting bad over the past three or four years. Before, we had these big, bulky servers. Now, they’re so small and so dense. With blades, it’s going to be even more of an issue.”

Intel researchers will present at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco this week details of its “Foxton” technology, set to appear in the fourth quarter in the next generation of its 64-bit Itanium 2 chip, “Montecito.”

The chip maker has been able to reduce the power envelope of Montecito to 100 watts from 130 watts in the current chip, the Itanium 2 9M, said Nimish Modi, vice president of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group and general manager of its Enterprise Microprocessor Division, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Click here to read more about cooling blade servers.

The chip will offer two cores on a single die, with each core running multiple threads simultaneously. A power meter on the chip lets Foxton dynamically adjust processor voltage and frequency according to demand, resulting in a performance boost while maintaining power consumption. Foxton will be brought into Intel’s Xeon processors at a later date, Modi said.

In addition, Montecito will feature demand-based switching capabilities currently found in Intel’s Xeon and Pentium processors. The technology works with the server’s operating system to reduce energy consumption at times of low utilization, Modi said.

Intel is trading off frequency for better power management, Modi said. Although Montecito will initially max out at 2GHz—compared with 1.6GHz for the 9M—the frequency jump is not as large as in previous chip transitions.

Next Page: AMD and APC cool off as well.

Meanwhile, AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., later this month will ramp up the speed in its 64-bit Opteron processor, while staying within the 95-watt power envelope for the 90-nanometer chip, officials said. When the company introduces its dual-core Opteron in the middle of this year, those new chips will fit within the same envelope, offering greater performance at the same power consumption level.

AMD announced in December that its PowerNow technology—a combination of chip instructions and software—will be available in Opteron.

PowerNow, similar to AMD’s Cool’n’Quiet technology found in the company’s desktop chips, can dynamically increase or reduce the amount of power to the chip depending on the demand. Officials said they expect OEMs to begin turning on the technology in their systems in the first half of the year.

To read more about AMD’s cooling efforts, click here.

Hillco’s Jefferson said he has moved server racks farther apart to allow for better airflow between them and has installed a monitoring system to keep tabs on power consumption and heat generation.

“I don’t think I’d be as comfortable going home for the weekend without the monitoring system,” Jefferson said.

APC is addressing such issues as these with equipment for the data center. The company, based in South Kingston, R.I., offers racks with integrated cooling and power management and air-conditioning units that run closer to the systems than standard wall units.

“The most controversial topic right now is heat,” said Neil Rasmussen, vice president and chief technology officer at APC. “The average data center today is built for 1.5 kilowatts per rack. And with blade servers, you can populate a rack with 20 watts of power.”

The ultimate solution, according to Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H., could be a combination of software that controls the systems and hardware that responds to the software. “The higher-level management software will have to [decide] what gets shut off, what gets powered down,” Haff said. “But the hardware really needs to be able to do something useful in response.”

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