Saving power has become a mainstream concern in the enterprise and at home,
as IT users aim to cut costs and do their part to help save the planet.
There are a lot of different ways that technology users can reduce their
power, and chip maker Intel is putting a number of them under one umbrella
called Less Watts. The only caveat, though, is that it’s 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 that Intel has grouped under the Less Watts umbrella
is the Intel-sponsored PowerTOP tool. Hohndel explained that PowerTOP is a
little run-time tool that analyzes what is running and it provides
suggestions of 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 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 that Less Watts offers, an enterprise could save 10 watts of power on a normal dual processor
server, Hohndel continued. Add to that the fact that for every watt that isn’t created you save 1.3 watts in energy needed to cool the server.
“The impact is dramatic,” Hohndel said.
He admitted that the projects listed on Less Watts are all tested and
developed for Intel silicon, though he had no doubt that they could
potentially impact other vendors, including rival AMD.
As a community open
source project, Hohndel said Intel is not restricting the effort to be
just Intel, though Intel is the focus since they are the ones that 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.
As an example he cited the tickless idle changes
in the Linux kernel, which he described as being at the very core of the
operating system and could not be easily transported.
Though Intel has focused Less Watts on Linux, that doesn’t necessarily
imply that Intel believes that Linux is a more power-efficient operating
system than others. Or does it?
“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
What Intel has done is simply taken a specific server running Linux out of
the box, measured its power usage, applied the changed then measured again to
see the delta. Hohndel said that from a macro perspective, it’s the power
saving that’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.”