RealTime IT News

IBM, Intel Pose as Low-power Computing Brokers

In the same week it's scheduled to launch one of its most powerful Unix servers yet, IBM Corp. said Monday it is launching an initiative to improve the energy efficiency of computing.

This "low-power computing research effort" will be spearheaded by the Armonk, N.Y.-based firm's research lab in Austin, Texas and comes perhaps not coincidentally on the same day its major chip provider, Intel Corp., unleashed what it calls the fastest and lowest-power-consuming microprocessors for mobile PCs.

In Big Blue's case, the company also established a low-power consulting practice and is accelerating the development of ultra-low power components and power-efficient servers, storage systems, personal computers and ThinkPad notebook computers, all of which, of course, are juiced by Intel chips.

Manned by John E. Goode, IBM Global Services director and managing principal, the practice will help customers lower IT energy usage through careful evaluation of the power requirements of their tech infrastructures. As for the broader operation, Mark Dean, Ph.D., IBM Fellow and vice president of systems research, has been named as the point man.

Dean, a member of the National Academy of Engineers and the Inventor's Hall of Fame with three key PC patents under his belt, talked about the importance of considering low-power alternatives in a public statement Monday.

"Very quickly, energy and heat will go from being irritants to major product development limitations," Dean said. "The demand for increasingly powerful systems is driving up the amount of heat within many new products. If we don't address the power issue, products will become so hot that you'll be able to cook with them rather than compute with them."

On the Intel side of the low-power cause, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker drew the curtain on 12 new chips based on its 0.13-micron manufacturing process technology, which allow for new levels of performance and low power consumption.

Chief among the chips are the mobile Intel Pentium III processor-M at 1.2 GHz -- which the company claims is the fastest mobile processor currently on the market and provides the highest performance for both full-size and thin-and-light notebook PCs -- and the new mobile Intel Pentium III processor-M at 700 MHz, which operates at 0.95 volt while consuming less than half a watt of average power.

The Intel news marks the low-power processor family's transition to the 0.13-micron process technology, which was previously bundled into mobile processors earlier this year. What's more, they've been tinkered with as Intel has added what it calls "architectural advancements" to the new chips, including 512KB L2 cache, Data Prefetcher and a processor system bus up to 133MHz.

In other Intel news, the chipmaker introduced two new versions of its Intel 830 mobile chipset family geared to address the mobile market. Intel 830M offers integrated graphics for 2D, 3D, and video display on mainstream notebook PCs.

Intel's positive news comes the same day chief rival Advanced Micro Devices launched its own chips for PCs -- the 1.1GHz AMD Duron processor, which is targeted for home and small- to medium-sized business PC users because of its ability to sufficiently power photo, audio and Internet applications. Austin's AMD has had a rough go of it lately in the sagging market as it said last week that it would shutter two factories in southeast Austin and cut 1,000 U.S. jobs during the next nine months. AMD will also cancel 1,300 jobs in Penang, Malaysia, as the company reorganizes its chip packaging and test operations.

While Intel's announcement mixes some new chips with some old but improved chips, Big Blue's low-power research lab announcement follows months of success with low-power products for the enterprise. For instance, IBM has received staunch support for its low-power cause in the form of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA praised IBM for its eServer z900 mainframe, which uses copper wiring and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) -- two technologies that yield cooler-running machines.

Furthermore, Big Blue has developed new chip design techniques to yield further power reductions, which it will reveal at the Microprocessor Forum conference Oct. 17 in San Jose, Calif.