April 21st, 2008

Earth Day

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Today is Earth Day, a celebration of all things Earth-friendly.  As a Foolish Earthling, my family & I have decided to “put our money where our mouth is”: we’ve invested both in solar panels and in a CSA.
Regrid Power installed the panels, which arrived two months early.   What was slated to happen in June is already installed on our roof!  As of this writing we are eagerly awaiting inspection by PG&E before they can be turned on. The installation went fairly smoothly and is basically invisible from street-level.  We suffered one day of roof-noise and three days of a work crew (very nice guys, very respectful of our privacy and property) wondering around our backyard and roof.  The economic theory goes something like this: during the hottest parts of the summer the panels will be generating at their peak power; we’ll sell the excess back to PG&E at peak power rates.  During the evenings & winter season the panel won’t generate enough, so we’ll buy power from PG&E at the off-peak rate.  PG&E won’t actually give us any money but the income from the excess power will be used to offset our normal power bill.  This also means we’ll be able to run our A/C during peak hours with a much reduced bill.
Community Supported Agriculture is basically a collection of people directly paying the farmers in advance for the food they are going to grow.  We’ve signed up with Live Earth Farm.  For $30/week, we get about 15-20lbs of fruit & vegetables every week for 8 months.  It means the farmer gets a steady income and we get veggies often within 24 hours of being pulled from the dirt.  We’ve been loving the change in diet, we’re eating a lot of new (to us) veggies we would never have tried otherwise.  Another good sign: our twin apple trees have had plenty of blossoms this spring, and lots of bees wondering around them.  No sign of the yellow jackets that plagued us last year.  The kids & I are anticipating apples galore this fall!
And now for the technical bits: Azul gear is very power efficient for server hardware.  We strive for high throughput, which means high core count (so tons of the very slow memory ops in flight at once – a fast out-of-order X86 might get 3 or 4 cache misses in flight at once while we routinely get ~150 memory ops per socket in flight at once).  High core count means small simple CPUs; these simple CPUs have short simple pipes and are hard to clock at high frequencies – and less productive to clock faster (you’ll just hit the next cache miss quicker).  So our clock rate is modest – and this has a huge impact on power.  We aim for high throughput and as a bonus we get low power: about 65W per die when going full blast (we’re also using DDR3 instead of FBDIMMs, which is another substantial power savings).  Here’s another way to do the math: 65W/socket and 48 core/socket means ~1.3watts/core.  Not embedded-systems terrain but definitely waaaay low power for high-end servers!   Azul also buys the CO2 emissions offsets for every box we sell, both the manufacturing emissions and the lifetime operating costs.
My kids are a daily reminder to me that
There’s Another Generation Following Us.
Happy Earth Day to You,

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