Curb Your Power Usage With Less Watts

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Sep 21, 2007


With power now a chief concern for enterprises and home users, alike, chip maker Intel has compiled a number of solutions designed to curb power usage under a single umbrella: Less Watts.

Intel has compiled a number of solutions for Linux shops that are designed to curb power usage.

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What sets the initiative apart is that it is targeted specifically at Linux users.

"What's interesting about this project is that it's an umbrella project covering a broader range of things already in existence," Dirk Hohndel, chief Linux and open source technologist, told InternetNews.com. "It's an open source project, and we want to create a community that shares tips, helps each other and creates a focal point around saving power."

Among the projects Intel has grouped under the Less Watts umbrella is the Intel-sponsored PowerTOP tool. Hohndel explained that PowerTOP is a little runtime tool that analyzes what is running and provides suggestions on how to improve your system and make it more efficient.

There are also already efforts in the Linux kernel, including the "tickless idle," which is a power saving-feature that aims to reduce power consumption while the OS is idle.

At the core of power conservation for Intel is getting the operating system to do less needless work. "The biggest power waster is that the system wakes up thousands of times per second to do things it doesn't need to do," Hohndel said.

Using some of the tools and tips Less Watts offers, an enterprise can save 10 watts of power on a normal dual-processor server, Hohndel continued. Add to that the fact that for every watt not created, the 1.3 watts of energy needed to cool the server is saved.

"The impact is dramatic," Hohndel said.

He admitted that although the projects listed on Less Watts are tested and developed for Intel silicon, he has no doubt they my potentially impact other vendors, including rival AMD.

As a community open source project, Hohndel said Intel is not restricting the effort to just Intel, although Intel is the focus, since it started the effort. Linux vendors Red Hat and Novell have also endorsed the project.

Less Watts is geared toward Linux users as opposed to users of any other operating system. Hohndel explained that applying some of the techniques described on the site would be difficult, though not impossible, to port to other operating systems.

Hohndel cited the tickless idle changes in the Linux kernel as an example, describing them as being at the very core of the operating system and thus not easily transported.

Although Intel has focused Less Watts on Linux, Intel is careful not to rank it as the most power-efficient operating system.

"It's extremely hard to benchmark other OSs," Hohndel said. "It's difficult to do, so we have not spent the time trying to create fair benchmarks."

What Intel has done is simply taken a specific server running Linux out of the box, measured its power usage, applied the change, then measured again to see the delta. Hohndel said that from a macro perspective, the power saving is what's important.

"We've stayed clear from competitive benchmarking across OSs and flavors of OSs," Hohndel said. "We don't want Intel to be perceived as the judge. I am thrilled if vendors want to compete on this, but it is not something we are trying to push today."

This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.

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