Enterprise Unix Roundup: Can It Be Easy to Be Green?

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Jun 11, 2008


Brian Proffitt
An interesting news item popped up this week, which got me wondering about a new way for Unix to stand out in the marketplace. A recent survey finds Linux more power efficient than Windows. Can Unix do better?

Network World released a report focusing on power consumption comparison tests that were run between Linux and Windows 2008 on Dell, IBM and HP machines. The findings? Overall, the Linux server saved 12 percent more power than the Windows platform. Given a world where energy costs are going through the roof, these savings are pretty significant.

The testers pitted Windows 2008 Enterprise Edition up against Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.1 and SUSE Enterprise Linux 10 SP1:

Enterprise Unix Roundup
The results showed that while Windows Server 2008 drew slightly less power in a few test cases when it had its maximum power saving settings turned on, it was RHEL that did the best job of keeping the power draw in check across the board.

Of course, the authors of the Network World Lab Alliance study were careful to hedge their bets a bit because each of the hardware platforms they used had varied power consumption capabilities, as well as other differences, such as how the computer should perform.

The test findings determined that no matter what the system, the best way to save power was to throttle back the CPU so it draws little to no power when unused. Thus, the operating system that can handle this process most efficiently is going to come out ahead on the green scale.

This may also be a clue as to why no Unix flavors were tested for the survey. Native Unix platforms running native Unix operating systems would be, I imagine, the most efficient power consumers for that specific hardware. After all, the operating system would be built with that system in mind and thus would be the best to control it. However, for commodity system comparisons, you have to test commodity operating systems, like Linux and Windows.

If my supposition is right, it leads me to wonder: How does Unix perform overall in power savings when compared on an apples-to-apples basis? How much power does an AIX box pull in per teraflop vs. a Linux box? Or a Solaris box?

That would be a study I would like to see because my gut tells me Unix could indeed have a green edge over commodity servers, given the lock-step relationship between the operating system and the platform in Unix-land. If this is not the case, then why isn't it? Surely it would not take too much effort to refine Unix software to create more power efficiency.

In an increasingly green world, that would be a pretty strong selling point.

Brian Proffitt is managing editor of JupiterWeb's Linux/Open Source channel, which includes Linux Today, LinuxPlanet, and AllLinuxDevices.

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