Computer maker Dell’s solution to the data centre energy crisis is to market more energy-efficient versions of its PowerEdge line of servers.

Dell is scheduled to introduce today the PowerEdge Energy Smart model 1950 and 2950 servers, which the company claims deliver a 25% improvement in performance per watt compared to the standard 1950 and 2950.

The Energy Smart server features include a processor that draws only 40 watts of power versus the 65 watts or 80 watts drawn in standard servers. These servers will also offer only 2.5-inch disk drives, smaller than the typical 3.5-inch drives.

Those design changes may diminish performance in a way some customers would find unacceptable, said Jay Parker, director of PowerEdge Servers in the Dell Product Group. But for as many as 20% of its customers, he hoped the goal would be energy efficiency.

"We would expect somewhere in the 10 to 20% range of our customers to be interested in this product and to ultimately migrate to this. But there is a whole other set of customers who need more configurability or [for whom] power efficiency is not a priority," Parker said.

The Energy Smart servers also feature redesigned power supplies and cooling fans, as well as software that regulates the processors and memory to power the server up and down as computing demand changes.

The announcement follows Dell's September launch of Energy Smart OptiPlex business desktop computers.

Vendors of servers, desktops and other enterprise hardware are on an energy-saving kick these days, addressing the need to cut data-centre power consumption. The lifetime operating cost of powering servers and cooling them with air conditioning is becoming more of a concern to data centre managers than the price of the server itself.

HP unveiled what it calls, "Dynamic Smart Cooling" for data centres late last month. Heat sensors on server racks send signals to a control panel that adjusts the air-conditioning output.

But Parker said HP's technology doesn't address the energy problem as directly as Dell does by making the server energy-efficient.

"You have to optimise the server, because ultimately that has a huge ripple effect on the other infrastructure pieces in the data centre. In our mind [HP's technology] seems to ignore the first obvious step, which is to address the server itself," he said.

Pricing for the Energy Smart 1950 starts at US$2,449 (£1,238), $100 more than the standard 1950, Parker said. Pricing for the Energy Smart 2950 starts at $2,619 (£1,324).