While this paper is marketing material from Intel, it makes some good points about the value of moving to multi-core chips and using virtualization to consolidate servers with low utilization
Problem: Most businesses already spend about half as much for the electricity to power and cool their infrastructure as they do for the hardware itself, and this percentage is expected to increase. This challenge is compounded by the design constraints of existing data centers, many of which are already running at or near thermal capacity. Unless energy efficiency is dramatically improved, organizations will be unable to expand their computing infrastructure without the expense and disruption of upgrading their data center, building a new one, or migrating to a co-location facility.
The goal was to maximize total performance per Watt for the computing infrastructure. This can allow datacenters to grow their computing, reduce their costs and extend the life of existing facilities.
Solution: CERN has found that its return on investment (ROI) is generally highest by optimizing datacenter performance/Watt. Multi-core processors based on the Intel Core microarchitecture deliver about five times more compute power per Watt than single-core processors based on the earlier Intel NetBurst microarchitecture. According to CERN, this move alone has already increased the useful life of its data center by about two years, enabling the organization to avoid the cost and disruption of adding a new facility.
This energy efficiency can be achieved with a basic understanding of circuit design. A small reduction in frequency causes a small reduction in the amount of work performed, but a relatively large drop in the amount of energy consumed. As a result, more cores running at lower frequencies can deliver substantial gains in total performance per Watt.
Virtualization can be used to consolidate smaller and infrequently used applications, which reduces the number of servers required for these secondary workloads. Better utilization provides energy efficiency gains, reduces data center footprints, and provides a more flexible and manageable infrastructure.
Conclusion: This paper brings up a couple of good points. While new datacenters may not have to optimize power consumption to the extreme of CERN, they should be aware of the long term consequences of their decisions, which may create limitations in the future. Also, while virtualization adds overhead, and is not preferred for situation where there is high server utilization for a particular application, virtualization can provide clear benefits when used to consolidate underutilized servers.