SPEC to build power and performance benchmark

The Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC) has announced the creation of the SPEC Power-Performance Committee, a committee that will oversee the development of a new benchmark to compare server power consumption and performance. Companies such as AMD, Intel, Dell, HP, IBM, and Sun are taking part, and SPEC expects the first version of the benchmark to be ready for release in the first quarter of next year. SPEC says it will "use its current benchmarks . . . as the basis for generating loads typical of day-to-day server use," although actual testing methods have not been determined just yet. The committee also plans to quiz IT managers, organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, and other "experts in power measurement" in order to develop a suitably accurate power consumption metric.

While measuring raw idle and load power consumption for desktop systems is relatively simple, measuring server power consumption in order to get a better idea of running costs is much more difficult. One needs to take into account not only workloads and usage patterns but also the amount of power required to cool the machines—in the server space, this involves large and power-hungry air conditioning systems. Server manufacturers have long debated the issue, and Sun even introduced a test that factors in server space utilization, power consumption, and performance last year. However, the fact that most major industry players figure in the new SPEC Power-Performance Committee will hopefully yield a more universal and impartial benchmark.

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