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Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC), an organization behind industry’s widely used CPU benchmark, said Wednesday that it would develop a special benchmark that measures performance per watt ratio of server-class computers. The initiative is similar to what Advanced Micro Devices and Sun Microsystems have proposed several weeks earlier.

“Balancing performance with power consumption has emerged as a major issue for datacenter managers, computer manufacturers, government, and the industry at large,” said Larry Gray of HP, chairman of the newly formed SPEC Power-Performance committee.

The initial product from the SPEC power-performance committee will address small- to medium-sized computer server platforms. Actual methods and metrics have not been defined, though SPEC will use its current benchmarks - considered worldwide standards - as the basis for generating loads typical of day-to-day server use.

Personal computers and servers have been gaining computing power rapidly throughout the history. But in addition to performance, their power consumption and heat dissipation have been increasing tremendously, which means that operators of servers have to design appropriate cooling technologies and pay higher electricity bills. With the number of users on the Web expected to rise by 300 million per year into the foreseeable future, even small improvements in web server energy efficiency hold the promise of massive savings.

“Similar to the miles per gallon metric used by many in their decision to purchase a car, this metric will enable those purchasing servers to evaluate energy consumption in a standardized way, for the first time,” recently said AMD and Dell.

Current SPEC member companies committed to developing a new power-performance measurement standard include AMD, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, IBM, and Sun Microsystems. Bruce Nordman of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Energy Analysis Department is a supporting member of the committee and liaison to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

Key representatives participating in the new SPEC committee have been participants in industry and government activities dealing with computer energy consumption. This ensures cooperation between SPEC and organizations around the world that are working on these initiatives. SPEC is also getting direct input from organizations such as the EPA’s Energy Star Program, according to the group.

The first SPEC energy and performance benchmark is scheduled for release in Q1 2007. SPEC expects that a wide range of computer server manufacturers, systems integrators, and resellers will run the benchmark and report results. Data from running the benchmark tests is targeted for use by IT professionals who manage datacenters, industry analysts, energy researchers, government organizations, and members of the technology media.

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