Tech Corner

How Server Efficiency Is Defined — And How to Improve It

If the warnings by environmental institutes and the United Nations are anything to go by, the damage from emissions is inching closer to irreversible. 

It’s an ethical responsibility for enterprises, especially those with data centers filled with racks of servers, to do everything to curb emissions — and the need for server efficiency is higher than ever. 

While investing in certified efficient servers is a good start, enterprises should take additional measures to control the power draw of their servers. Making servers energy-efficient is one way to go about it. 

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In this article, we will discuss the following:

  • How efficiency is measured for servers.
  • What can be done to ace this metric.
  • How to take the next step.

How Is Server Efficiency Measured?

Server efficiency is essentially the appliance’s efficiency of power usage. It’s different from server performance, which can be measured with various metrics, such as requests per second and thread count. 

The server efficiency rating tool (SERT) is the industry standard used for measuring the energy efficiency of servers. It was developed by Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s the standard adopted by the Energy Star program, which certifies the efficiency of electrical products. 

“SERT is organized around eleven worklets which broadly fall under three categories: CPU-based, memory-based, and storage-based. The tested results from the worklets are aggregated into a single score with a weighting of 65% for CPU, 30% for memory, and 5% for storage worklets,” says Energy Star

“SERT measures the power demand of these different worklet groupings at idle as well as several designated utilization levels to capture variations in workflow.”

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Fortunately, most modern servers meet the SERT standards and are Energy Star certified. Still, there are ways that users can maximize efficiency and ensure that these servers tap into their capabilities of using less energy. 

Data Center Efficiency Vs. Server Efficiency

It’s essential to mention data center efficiency when discussing server efficiency. The former is measured by power usage effectiveness (PUE). It’s the ratio of the power entering the data center and the power consumed by the equipment.  

Server efficiency plays a pivotal role in PUE, as servers make up a significant portion of the hardware in data centers. On the other hand, it’s PUE that’s primarily used to set and achieve emissions goals. 

Ideally, you want the PUE ratio to be close to one. An energy-efficient server can help with that goal, along with other green technologies

Uptime Institute’s Key Findings On Server Energy Efficiency

The Uptime Institute recently released a report that analyzed the energy efficiency of several generations of servers. The report also provides guidelines for enterprises to maximize the efficiency of their servers based on those findings. 

Here are the key takeaways from that report:

  • Server efficiency can increase by 50 percent when processor utilization doubles from the lower levels. 
  • Upgrading old servers to two generations higher can bring significant efficiency (up to 300 percent for AMD processor-based servers). 
  • Good power management can increase efficiency by up to 15 percent. 
  • Newer generation servers exhibit efficiency when handling larger workloads, which means lower workloads may result in less-than-ideal efficiency. 

5 Ways To Increase Server Efficiency

Based on the guidelines in the Uptime Insititute’s report and expert opinion, here are five recommendations for improving server efficiency:

Manage Server Capacity Proactively

One of the ways server efficiency is compromised, especially in modern servers, is by running them at low capacity. As the Uptime Institute’s report found, servers are most efficient when run at total processing capacity. 

In other words, right-size your workloads so that servers run at full capacity. This can be proactively achieved by dedicating high-power servers for more intense and heavy workloads, for example, artificial intelligence-related tasks.

Not all applications are running around the clock, so you should consider only running those applications that do on high-power servers. This way, they’re always running efficiently. 

Tap Power Management Features Of New Generation Servers

Newer servers have built-in power management features that can actively increase energy efficiency. Uptime Institute found that they can increase efficiency by as much as 10 percent. 

Behind the scenes, the server adjusts CPU voltage and frequency, moving unused or underused cores to a low-power state. So, this feature can be helpful when you don’t have the need to run the server at total capacity, as suggested above. 

There is, however, some tradeoff. When activated, power-saving features can increase latency, which may be a problem with specific time-sensitive workloads. You should analyze which workloads can be run in low-power mode without compromising on their performance. 

Go For More Powerful Servers

As you refresh servers, consider the full capacity efficiency you can benefit from. Instead of running two servers, consider getting one that combines the number of cores on each. This strategy can be used if your workloads are heavy enough to use the higher-power server at total capacity. 

Uptime Institute found that for servers with AMD processors, efficiency improved significantly when server power was increased. 

Go For More Cores

A similar strategy to the above discussion of higher power servers is adding more cores. Adding more cores can double the efficiency in some cases, as depicted in the report. Again, this is only useful if you run heavy workloads that use all the cores, including the extra ones you’ve added. 

Data centers can use a variety of core numbers in their servers. Using a combination of servers with eight to 16 cores and those with up to 64 cores, enterprises can distribute workloads according to capacity and achieve maximum efficiency based on the applications they need to run. 

Invest In Newer, Energy Efficient Servers

Uptime Institute also recommends upgrading to more energy-efficient servers. Servers can last up to a decade, and if you’re running legacy servers, chances are they’re not the most energy-efficient. If you don’t have any dependencies on these legacy servers, buying newer-generation server models can significantly increase the overall efficiency of your data center. 

As mentioned, modern servers have power management features designed to utilize their resources more efficiently. 

Take the Next Step

For data centers, it’s essential to improve survey efficiency and adopt sustainable practices. After all, they’re responsible for a significant chunk of emissions worldwide. 

There are several practical solutions for data centers to reduce emissions, and moving to energy-efficient servers is one of them. It’s not only an investment into better-performing servers but an effort to maximize efficiency in energy consumption. 

With a large network of manufacturers, PivIT offers an extensive selection of servers—both new and legacy—to help connect virtually any kind of network. We are here to help you make sharing, storing, and accessing your data as simple as possible. 

We work hard to make the front-end investment so we have inventory in stock and immediately available to our clients. Connect with PivIT and let us know what servers you are looking for!

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