One of the claims made by IBM and System i users is that it is more is energy efficient per workload than the equivalent computing power of scaled-out x86 boxes. Writing in the context of mainframes, immediate past president of the IBM user group Share, Robert Rosen, says that scale-out is horrible for energy efficiency because utilization is so low. Of course, the System i isn’t a mainframe, but does the utilization logic apply? Is looking at scaled-out clusters and the System i (or mainframe for that matter) in terms of energy efficiency an apples-to-apples comparison?
The issue of power efficiency and the System i was taken up recently by Chris Maxcer in the System i Network. He wonders how concerned a System i shop needs to be about their environmental contributions, because energy-saving strategies such as virtualization via LPAR allocation or proprietary software, is such a prominent part of the System i architecture.
Furthermore, if the System i is so efficient (and if you have the data that says it is, we’d love to see it), does it matter that IBM is investing in efforts like Project Green or The Green Grid? Sure, IBM has their x-series, blades and other products that could use some greening up in terms of energy efficiency, but what does it mean for System i users?
Speaking of those initiatives, does anyone really believe that IBM’s endeavors are environmentally altruistic? Or do most people recognize that it’s about the economics of power and the electricity bill that pops up on the CIO’s or CFO’s desk every month? One way to assess the integrity of these initiatives is to look at Gartner’s recent analysis of The Green Grid’s work. The consortium’s membership is heavy on vendors and light on end-user representation, meaning that the motives could point to self-interest. In other words, under the rubric of environmentally responsible green computing, who’s to say that a group of manufacturers, including System i creators IBM, aren’t just offering products that they deem energy efficient without the accountability of user feedback?
In all fairness, IBM did recently offer the new Power6 processor, which comes a premium price. The chip is twice as fast as the previous generation using almost no more energy. That is putting your R&D where your mouth is, isn’t it? The corporate skeptic in me, though, looks at the price and questions whether IBM isn’t just profiteering from the green computing craze. It’s hard to blame them, though. They are a business after all. Who says being green isn’t profitable?