Developing new products that balance computing performance and power consumption, is one of Intel’s top priorities, according to CEO Paul Otellini.
The others are “socializing” enterprise networks, and supporting grid technology as a means of effectively channeling technology resources to distributed user communities.
All these themes featured prominently in Ottelini’s keynote today at Oracle OpenWorld 2007.
The Intel chief spoke of the sharp rise in the cost of power and cooling over the past few years.
“Data centre power consumption has doubled form 2000 to 2006,” he noted, adding that energy sucked up by today’s data centres can electrify 5.8 million households for a year.
“This trend should not continue.”
Otellini said his company is keenly aware of the huge environmental and cost implications to excessive power consumption, which is why energy efficiency is a top priority with Intel.
“We take it very seriously.”
As part of this social and environmental commitment, he said, Intel is also implementing the industry’s first halogen-free products, and that’s a feature of the Intel Penryn processor launched Monday.
The new 45-nanometer (nm) Penryn for desktop PCs is being promoted as a much faster, smaller and greener chip.
Otellini said to transition from 65nm to 45nm, Intel designed a new transistor and introduced technology that prevents electricity leaks, while improving energy efficiency.
This, some experts predict, is likely to result in a huge performance boost for desktops featuring the new chip.
For instance, Dean Freeman, an analyst at Gartner Inc. estimates Penryn will be 20 to 50 per cent faster than Intel’s previous chip releases in general purpose applications (such as the Microsoft Office apps, for instance) and 10 to 40 per cent faster in technical apps, multimedia and games.
Productivity benefits to business from the 45 nm Penryn were demoed by Cameron Purdy, vice-president of development, Oracle Coherence.
Purdy ran Oracle’s Coherence Data Grid application – used on several Wall Street applications, reservation systems and e-commerce Web sites – on two sets of six servers – each set of six strung together in a data grid.
In the first set of six servers, each machine was loaded with two Intel 65nm CPUs (Intel’s top performing chips before the 45 nm) with dual core processors.
Likewise, every machine in the second six-server set also had two CPUs, but these were the new quad core 45 nm chips.(Intel shrunk the size of the transistors within these CPUs with a view to making them run faster, while consuming less power).
The 65 nm CPU grid was able to crunch around 3 million financial transactions per second.
By contrast the 45 nm system could process 30 per cent more transactions per second when just three of the six (45 nm) servers were provisioned for the grid.
“Essentially, we’re doing 30 per cent more work with half as much hardware,” Purdy noted. “What’s more we’re doing it with significantly less power and heat.”
He then demoed how – when the three remaining 45 nm servers are thrown into the mix – transactions crunched per second go up from 3 to 8 million.
And the icing on the cake, Purdy said, is that severs can be added to the grid without information loss or having to stop the application.
Another Oracle executive related how Intel servers are being used to run Oracle’s rapidly growing OnDemand business (Oracle apps delivered over the Web).
“The customer base for Oracle’s OnDemand has more than doubled since last year,” noted Juergen Rottler, executive vice-president, Oracle customer service. “This year we have 3.6 million end users compared with the 1.7 million we had last year.”
He said Intel processors are deployed as part of a virtualized environment on which the OnDemand business is run.
With more than 350 offerings, speed to market, as well as the ability to grow quickly are both vital capabilities for Oracle OnDemand business, Rottler said.
“With [our] massive growth in this area there was the real risk we would run out of data centre space, and run out of power.”
He said Oracle’s work with Intel at the chip level, as well on virtualization technologies, has generated breakthroughs that have allowed Oracle OnDemand to double the business within the same data centre space.
Grid computing, Rottler said, is now integral to the way Oracle runs every aspect of its business.
He talked about the use of this technology at Oracle University – Oracle’s online training program that instructs 350,000 students a year, in 56 countries and 24 languages.
“It’s a good-sized operation, representative of the businesses many of you are in today,” he told the audience.
Oracle University, he recalled, was faced with many of the same challenges as the OnDemand business.
“So last year we re-architected the grid [structure]that business runs on. We utilized several hundred Intel Xeon servers.”
The new architecture, Rottler said, has helped Oracle University to drive down its total server count by more than 70 per cent, decrease space utilization by 52 per cent and power consumption by 47 per cent.
“Most importantly, we can re-provision our global ‘classrooms’ on a daily basis. We can re-provision those servers overnight on our grid. So we’ve been able to add a new class to our curriculum every day – and to do that with the same capacity and these dramatically reduced (server, space and power) numbers.”
Intel’s Otellini said such results are only possible because of the tremendous improvements in server processing power over the past three years.
He said, in 2004 it would take six racks of 126 servers, occupying 240 sq ft, and consuming 48 kw of power to generate 5.1M bops (billion ops per second).
“Today you can replace all those machines with a single rack with 17 blades on it readily deployed with air cooling. And it can be done with an 83 reduction in floor space, an 87 per cent energy reduction on the same workload and annual savings of $53,000 a year.”
He said even more dramatic improvements can be expected as Intel brings more processing power to bear on the issue of performance vs. power.