Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Low-Power Server

Among Apple’s various computer announcements yesterday was one that people might have overlooked: the new, faster Mac Mini is available in a server configuration, with Snow Leopard Server installed. At $999, it’s certainly not the least expensive server you can buy, but as far as I can tell, it is the least expensive to operate, at least in places where you need just one small server. That’s because of its low power consumption.

Power consumption isn’t something that businesses always consider when they purchase a server, but they should. If you set up an average server and run it for a year, the electric costs can be around $100 — and if you have to pay for the air conditioning, that cost goes up to $200 or $300. That’s not a huge expense if you’re paying $1,000 for the server hardware in the first place, but over a period of a few years, the electrical costs could add up to as much as the initial hardware purchase costs. As energy prices rise and hardware prices fall over the next 5 years, the cost of electricity for a server will be noticeably larger than the hardware costs, and people will be seeking out energy-efficient servers.

The largest data centers do this already, of course, and as I wrote one week ago, there is even talk of moving some data centers to Iceland basically just to save on the air conditioning. The issue of energy efficiency is one that the rest of us ought to become more aware of as servers become more common in business settings and, eventually, at home.

For most of us, this is still several years away, but Apple yesterday showed that it’s aware of the trends by offering the Mac Mini in a server configuration.