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IBM's New Regatta Server Computer
Promises Speed, but Uses Less Energy

William M. Bulkeley, Staff Reporter
The Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2001

International Business Machines Corp. is trying to take advantage of a low-energy-using microchip to boost sales to companies interested in cutting electricity costs.

Energy efficiency is going to be part of the marketing pitch for the powerful Unix server, code-named Regatta, that IBM is expected to unveil later this week. Nicholas Donofrio, senior vice president, technology and manufacturing, said IBM's Power4 chip that will power Regatta, will operate at four times the speed of the Power3, but will use one-third less power.

That means the Regatta server will be twice as fast with the same power needs as IBM's current top Unix server, he said. It will make IBM's new server, which can be plugged into an ordinary wall outlet, faster and much more energy efficient than high-end servers from Sun Microsystems Corp. and other rivals, people familiar with the industry say.

A Sun spokeswoman in Palo Alto, Calif., said Sun, too, has promoted low power consumption, which is "consistent with being energy efficient as a company."

Formerly free-spending technology buyers haven't paid much attention to energy use. But rising electricity bills and the corporate belt-tightening may be changing that. Mark Sieczkowski, director of data-center operations for San Francisco retail chain Gap Inc., said that during the summer the company installed an IBM mainframe to replace a year-old Hitachi Ltd. one, saving $100,000 a year in electricity costs.

"Through all my years in data processing, energy savings were never significant enough that people would consider them" in making a big computer purchase," Mr. Sieczkowski said. "This time around it became significant" because electric costs at the company's Rockland, Calif., data center were slated to rise 62%, he says.

Richard Dougherty, director of research for Envisioneering Corp., a Seaford, N.Y., technology and marketing consultancy, said "energy costs have been rising way ahead of inflation, and heat has been a factor limiting how many devices can be put" in a data center. He said IBM has positioned itself to market energy-efficient products because it developed semiconductor technology that allows it to produce "the same computing power as Intel's or Sun's chips with half the power or less."

In an effort to further energy efficiency, IBM is establishing what it calls the Low-Power Computing Research Center at its laboratory in Austin, Texas. The center will be headed by Mark Dean, a top IBM scientist. IBM's services division is starting a low-power consulting practice that can analyze corporate data centers to advise on reducing electric bills.

IBM's Mr. Donofrio said demand for better power technology came from customers worried about rising energy costs, and from researchers who worried that processors "would just cook themselves if we weren't thoughtful about power."

IBM's semiconductor operations pioneered chips using copper, a more efficient conductor than commonly used aluminum. IBM developed a technology for putting silicon on ceramic insulators and combining with germanium. The technologies have helped it win business in battery-powered devices such as cellular phones.

Related Story:
IBM Launches Low-Power Computer Research Effort (10/1/1)
ARMONK, N.Y. -- International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) launched a low-power-computing research effort, seeking to accelerate the development of ultra-low-power components and power-efficient servers, storage systems, personal computers and ThinkPads.

In a press release Monday, IBM said the work will be coordinated out of its research lab in Austin, Texas.

As computers become more powerful, the energy needed to run them and the heat produced as a byproduct, have begun to limit development, the company said. The low-power research effort is focused on countering that problem.

William M. Bulkeley, Staff Reporter
IBM's New Regatta Server Computer Promises Speed, but Uses Less Energy
The Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2001

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