AMD Opteron Chills Out with Power Management

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is extending its PowerNow technology into theserver and workstation realms, building it into Opteron processors, thecompany announced today.

PowerNow, already available in laptops and desktop computers, helps keepchips cooler by cutting back on the power supplied to them when they are notin use. The technology, called Cool’n’Quiet in the Athlon XP processors,adjusts the clock speed of chips to make them more efficient.

Rival Intel had already announced it would incorporate SpeedStep, designed to do thesame thing, in its next-generation Montecito Itanium 2 chips, due out nextyear.

Available in 2005

PowerNow has been included in all Opteron chips that have been on the market since mid May, but the feature cannot be used until instructions are built into the operating system. Owners machines using the Opteron chips canactivate PowerNow using a BIOS (basic input output system) upgrade, whichAMD will make available on its Web site in the first half of 2005.

Cooler chips allow data centers to pack servers more tightly. This is a majorissue with blade systems, in which many servers are fittedinto a single box.

Power use, including the cost of running both the equipment itself and air conditioningsystems, is a big expense for data centers, so any reduction can have abig impact on the bottom line.

AMD also said that cooler chips mean less fanoperation, which reduces the noise level in the centers as well.

Pieces Missing

While reducing power consumption makes for more efficient systems and is adesirable goal, Gordon Haff, senior analyst at Illuminata, told TechNewsWorld,the support necessary is not up to speed.

“Power management may have come from the notebook world, but it’sincreasingly important in servers as well. However, it’s not widelysupported by management software yet, and that’s where the managementdials and knobs need to be,” Haff said.

“AMD and Intel can only provide thebase-level capabilities and instrumentation. Most of the control needs totake place at a higher level, and it’s not there yet for the most part.”

AMD said the PowerNow system can be turned on an off using managementsoftware. A company might want to shut off the power-saving device duringpeak compute times.

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