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The TPC Energy Specification

Mike Nikolaiev is the chairman of TPC's Energy Subcommittee and Director of ISS Performance Engineering at Hewlett-Packard Company.

In the past, performance and price/performance were the key criteria in data center purchasing decisions. Today, energy efficiency has become another significant factor in evaluating computing hardware. To address the shifting needs of IT purchasers, the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) is developing a new Energy Specification to supplement its widely used benchmark standards. The addition of power consumption metrics to the TPC's arsenal of performance and price/performance benchmarks will help buyers identify energy efficient equipment that meets their computational and budgetary requirements.

Since the inception of the TPC in 1988, the organization has developed nine distinct benchmarks, each according to industry demand. The TPC Energy Specification is a continuation of the TPC's work over the past two decades, beginning with the creation of performance benchmarks that quickly became industry standards. The TPC Energy Specification is poised to become another essential tool for computing industry stakeholders to compare, choose, and improve technology solutions, and is currently in the final stages of development.

Driving Forces Behind the TPC Energy Specification

The rapid growth in the use of computers and the Internet has led to an explosion in server installations, both in size and in number, and the amount of energy required to run and cool them has been increasing exponentially in recent years -- a trend that will continue into the future. In fact the Environmental Protection Agency anticipates that data center energy consumption within the U.S. will surpass 100 billion kWh by 2011, with an annual electricity cost of $7.4 billion (see EPA Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency).

The need to reduce power bills, even in the face of mounting demand for computing resources, has taken center stage for many organizations. Data center growth is constrained by hard limits on energy consumption due to facility issues, limitations of the power grid and/or political decisions. Additionally, increasing public awareness centered on data center energy consumption and its impact on the environment has led many companies to place a high priority on choosing "greener" technologies.

As Figure 1 illustrates, the three most important criteria in IT purchases are performance, price, and energy consumption. Today's complex IT environment demands that price and energy consumption be put in perspective of the performance. Reducing costs or energy consumption at the expense of performance is often unacceptable, and customers are increasingly requiring that price/performance and energy/performance be provided for IT purchasing decisions.

Figure 1: TPC benchmark metrics

Buyers require an objective method of comparing all three factors in order to select equipment that best fits their requirements. TPC's Energy Specification is being carefully designed to address this need. And like the TPC Pricing Specification, the TPC Energy Specification is a supplement to existing benchmarks rather than a standalone measurement framework. This means that it is highly flexible and is intended to be compatible with TPC benchmark standards currently in use including TPC-App, TPC-C, TPC-E, and TPC-H. The resulting metrics will enable comparison of systems on all three axes -- price, performance, and energy consumption.

Introduction to the TPC Energy Specification

Throughout its history, the TPC has adhered to an important principle. A System Under Test (SUT) should be reasonably similar to a typical customer installation rather than highly tuned and customized to run a specific benchmark. The TPC Energy Specification fits this criterion as well. It puts forth multiple guidelines that help manufacturers provide energy usage measurements, which mirror what an average user of a given system would experience. For example, the specification will require that the components of the SUT be commercially available and that the physical environment in which the test is conducted be comparable to typical business settings in terms of temperature, humidity and altitude.

To help manufacturers reduce the cost and difficulty of implementing the TPC Energy Specification and improve the comparability of results, the TPC intends to provide a software package currently known as the Energy Measuring System (EMS). EMS will provide services like power instrumentation interfacing, power and temperature logging, report generation and so on. Additionally, because most hardware makers already sponsor tests using TPC benchmark standards, adding the TPC Energy Specification to benchmark runs and reporting the data in the context of performance and price/performance measurements is expected to be straightforward.

Looking to the Future: The TPC Technology Conference on Performance Evaluation and Benchmarking

The TPC is conducting a conference in conjunction with the 35th International Conference on Very Large Data Bases (VLDB) on August 24, 2009 in Lyon, France. The conference will be keynoted by Michael Stonebraker, recognized as one of the top five software developers of the 20th century and an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The TPC encourages industry experts and analysts to submit innovative ideas and methodologies in performance evaluation, measurement, and characterization within, but not limited to the following areas: appliance, business intelligence, cloud computing, complex event processing, database performance optimizations, green computing, data compression, disaster tolerance and recovery, energy and space efficiency, hardware innovations, high-speed data generation, hybrid workloads or operational data warehousing, unstructured data management, software management and maintenance, virtualization and very large memory systems.

The proceedings will be published by Springer-Verlag in the Lecture Notes in Computer Science series. Selected papers may be considered for future TPC benchmark developments.

The deadline for abstract submission is June 5, 2009 and additional information, including submission guidelines, is available at

TPC TC 2009 Contacts: Raghunath Nambiar, General Chair,; Meikel Poess, Program Committee Chair,; Nicholas Wakou, Publicity Committee Chair,


As manufacturers adopt the TPC Energy Specification and begin providing power metrics along with performance and price/performance metrics, customers will be able to go to the TPC Web site to identify systems that meet their price, performance and energy requirements. So, for example, if purchasers require a specific transaction throughput, they can choose the least expensive and most energy efficient system that meets their needs. Or if purchasers have a limited amount of power in a rack, room, building, or region, they can identify peak-performance hardware that fits within the confines of their energy limitations. And when purchasers choose systems that use less energy, they can reduce their cooling requirements because of the direct relationship between power usage and heat generation.

High-quality, robust benchmarks are crucial to the advancement of the computing industry, and the TPC strives to develop benchmark specifications that enable highly relevant, realistic, comparable and transparent measurements. The new TPC Energy Specification is a continuation of TPC's ongoing efforts to meet the needs of a rapidly changing industry, and to provide industry-wide benchmarks that are relevant to a broad audience.

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