Processors

The "Jolly Green" sleeping server

Can you imagine having smart servers in your data center that know when to sleep and work? Microsoft's newest project called Marlowe is looking for more efficient ways to turn servers on and off throughout the day and night.

Can you imagine having smart servers in your data center that know when to sleep and work? Companies such as Microsoft are looking for more efficient ways to turn servers on and off throughout the day and night.

Depending on your business model, you may have more uptime to your servers during business hours than you do at night. You may have a lull at the end of the day when people are going home and an increase in capacity when people arrive in the office in the morning. Imagine if you had a server that could fire up processors when there's an increased workload and put processors to sleep during lull periods.

Microsoft is doing just this by leveraging Atom chips, which use only 1/10 the power of a Xeon chip. The Atom chip can only do about 1/4th of the work of a Xeon chip, so this new project is also experimenting with what the right balance is of power consumption and computing power.

Let's take this a step further by adding the "Green" to it. You purchase a rack of blades and leverage virtualization. Microsoft or some other vendor creates a software that lives on the hardware layer that monitors workload and puts processors in sleep mode or hibernation mode depending on the workload. If the workload increases, the processors wake up to handle the additional stress.

This idea could save a data center thousands of dollars in energy costs. Not only would you be saving money by consolidating servers via virtualization, but you would save money puting your servers to sleep when not in use. It would be cool to know that your servers go to sleep so many hours per day or that you have the power to wake processors if you see workload is increasing. This would be sort of like a manual override button. You can let the hardware layer software wake the processors or override it and wake them yourself.

These sleeping servers aren't available yet, but I would imagine if this was possible today, many businesses would want these in their data center.

17 comments
rondadams
rondadams

I think the title of this article is a bit mis-leading. But, If done properly, this could be a viable option. My interpretation of how this would work would involve building a server (motherboard) using multiple Atom (or other low power) processors, and then having a supervisor processor that would "wake up" or activate as many of the other processors as capacity demanded. So, if there was little or no activity, their might only be one processor running, but when very busy, it might activate all of the processors. So, the server wouldn't actually ever fully "go to sleep" so much as it would simply de-activate processors that weren't needed.

JimInPA
JimInPA

Just not a mission critical server. :ar!

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

Would you purchase a sleeping server for your data center? * Yes (75%) * No (30%) Total Votes: 20

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...I envision similar results as when Picard issued the 'Sleep' command to the Borg. At least until SP2, then things may be golden! ;)

Snak
Snak

I am the 12th person to vote in this survey. So far, Yes stands at 83% and No stands at 25%. How does this work? One question I would have to ask is, how will the server know that a request is about to be made in order to switch on, because in my experience, it can take 5 minutes for MS stuff to fire up, which is far too long for service-on-demand.

wratholix
wratholix

Servers wouldnt be hibernating, but i assume this shouldnt be too hard to implement to be handled by the bios. Currently it changes FSB speed but i feel this brings serious response latency to the server. So mod this feature to disable core's would be a small leap forward. Disabling the cpu's would have to be controlled off the motherboard and with that it also may require some software driver to poll the OS usage. I can see this being beneficial to many, especially on load balanced server farms.

Steven S. Warren
Steven S. Warren

What if that mission critical server was a vm that was clustered and the storage was on a SAN? YOu could use the processors on the virtualized servers to sleep and wake but your data would be safe on the SAN. Would that be interesting for you? Would you be willing to test it out in a lab and then if it worked well put it in production?

StealthWiFi
StealthWiFi

How much power to jump on from sleep to awake, how much time to do the same. As another poster stated MS suxs at returning from sleep mode, just not worth it in a production enviroment (unless your the Admin for some Eco group) Give me a power sucking factory that can perform, make up for the power consuption in other areas (like think clients...)

Steven S. Warren
Steven S. Warren

Look at the theory. A hardware layer software that monitors usage and sleeps and wakes processors based on that. Who cares who does it as long as it could be done successfully. It's just cool!

JimInPA
JimInPA

I wouldn't be as concerned about my data as I would availability. What if it didn't "wake up"? While the technology is in its infancy I don't think I could be convinced to try it out on a mission critical system. VM or not.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

in a lab, often things work out fine, once put into production, the real problems arise. Dont get me wrong, I think it is a good idea/concept. However, I woul dagree that until the SW is proven to be reliable, a non mission critical server would be the best starting point. Eventually, I am sure that this will become commonplace, so it really just rests in the hands of those creating the SW and how stable and functional it really is. And this cannot just be done overnight.

Steven S. Warren
Steven S. Warren

The power it would take to jump on would not nearly be the power to constantly run xeon chips. Take Microsoft out of the picture. This is a real opportunity for a third-party to create something revolutionary that could be in all data centers. I remember when the naysayers said virtualization was a fad and now we see it in almost all data centers.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

clicked the yes because I wanted to see the skewed numbers as posted previously :^0 I totally agree though, and that was my first thought. Will they actually wake up properly? What problems will occur? however, the article did mention 3rd party SW, so since it is not by MS, it may have a good chance of funcioning.

JimInPA
JimInPA

we have a full featured test environment for one of our clinical applications and we test our upgrades to the point of exhaustion but still end up at times with big fires to put out due too things not working the same in production as it did in test. :ar!

Steven S. Warren
Steven S. Warren

Vista sleep and hibernation suck. I agree. I have been playing around with Windows 7 and it is much, much better. You will be pleasantly surprised. That being said, maybe another vendor will produce something better w/ server sleep/wake/hibernation of processors.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

ok, true, not all MS SW s*cks. However a good portion of it does, including Suspend/Hibernate. even on desktop systems it has always been problematic. Now with Vista, it is the main power off button, and often Vista does not display video if it is used, upon waking up, or it just fails to wake up. How good would that be for servers? MS has been playing with suspend and hibernate since Win 95

Steven S. Warren
Steven S. Warren

Do you honestly believe if it comes from Microsoft it will not function? That is a huge sweeping generalization. While I can agree with you on some Microsoft products, I would never own such a sweeping generalization. Software such as Exchange and SQL Server rock.

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