EMC is working with Intel on a more energy efficient version of the EMC Atmos cloud storage system that should be available in the second half of next year, the companies said.

It's one of several ways that Intel is working with other vendors to design more power efficient systems for companies offering cloud computing services, Intel General Manager Jason Waxman told reporters at a joint briefing with EMC. The chip maker also announced a program with software vendors to test software management stacks for use in large, scale out datacentres.

Atmos is a hardware and software platform used mainly by service providers to manage multi-petabyte storage systems that can be spread across several data centers. AT&T's pay as you go Synaptic hosting service is based on Atmos, for example, according to EMC.

Power management is the top concern for EMC's customers, said Michael Feinberg, senior vice president with EMC's cloud infrastructure group. Besides the cost per megawatt, many customers are being constrained by the power capacity of their data centers, he said.

EMC can do some things to make Atmos more power efficient, such as turning off disks when they are not in use. "But we do not right now have the ability to manage power at the server level," Feinberg said.

EMC hopes to release a version of Atmos in the second half of next year that will be able to do just that, using Intel power management tools that are supported by its 5500-series Nehalem processors.

The Nehalem chips work with Intel's Node Manager tool, which can turn down the clock speed of its chips when they don't need to work at full capacity, reducing power consumption. They also work with its Data Center Manager software, which can cap the amount of power drawn by a pool of servers based on various policies.

In pilot tests, the combined system has reduced power consumption at the rack level by 15 per cent, according to Prasada Rampalli, Intel director for end user platform integration. "When you multiply that across 100,000 servers, that's a lot of money," he said.

Intel also announced the Cloud Builder Program, where it's working with software vendors to test software stacks for managing data centres that use virtualisation to manage workloads across a high volume of Intel-based servers.

There are only eight partners in the program today: Citrix Systems, VMware, Parallels, Microsoft, Red Hat, Canonical, Univa UD and the Xen consortium, but Intel hopes to add more over time. It will release white papers with best practices to help customers build the management systems.

Intel also showed off a hardware mockup of the "micro server" it announced at the Intel Developer Forum last month. It's based on a reference design that Intel created to show server makers the kind of product they can build with its chips.

It's designed for companies doing horizontal, scale out computing who want high compute density with minimum power draw. Intel is competing in this area with Via Technologies, whose Nano chips have been used in custom servers built by Dell, and Advanced Micro Devices, whose processors are used in Rackable Systems MicroSlice servers.

Waxman said Intel will submit the reference design to an industry group called the Server System Infrastructure Forum, in the hope that it will be adopted as a standard that server, storage and networking manufacturers will adopt.