Turning the Tide: Intelligent Nodes in the Smart Data Center

It used to be you could put a bunch of servers into a room, hook up some air condition units and some perforated floors and you were good. Uniformity was bad. Analysis was weak. But it worked. Well, as servers have become more powerful and, more importantly, as the complexity and quantities of tasks we ask them to do has grown, that approach no longer works.

Now people commonly worry about total cooling capacity, stranded power, hot zones, cold zones, etc. All “luxuries” we can’t afford in our data driven world.

Many believe the evolution point of the Energy Efficient Data Center is “smart;” a data center than can sense and manage with high precision its power demand, cooling capacity, temperature, and other environmental and operational variables.

I am sitting in the excellent IDF session by David Jenkins and Todd Christ on Intel Intelligent Node Manager. In the power constrained data center, eeking out every margin becomes an extremely cost effective endeavor. (why? Because your alternative is to invest in a new data center!). Node Manager builds intelligent nodes, which are required to build the ultimate smart data center.

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The current Node Manager reports system power and temperature and caps system power.  CPU & memory subsystem reporting/capping as well as the boot power and OS failure capping comes with the Sandy Bridge generation of processors announced at IDF 2010. To accelerate time to market, a Data Center Manager SDK is available.

The principle of operation is straightforward (in concept). The external management system sets policy and monitors compliance. The heavy lifting is all done within the Node Manager, which monitors, decides, and acts to control the platform power. In the newest generation (2.0) of Node Manager, it will report not only platform power level and inlet air temp but also CPU and memory power.

As discussed in David and Todd’s slides, many end users, OEM, OS, VMM, and console vendors are adopting this capability in the newest generation of platforms.

It sounds like a great way to get some smarts into your data center!