AMD Joins Push for Cooler, More Efficient Server Room

Using technology developed for laptops, the company adds power management to its Opteron processor line.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s announcement that its new PowerNow technology will be available on its Opteron line of processors could mean a lot to some enterprise customers.

The technology, which actually became available in May, despite AMDs announcement this week, is designed to let the processor run more slowly when demand is light, and then to return to full speed when needed. The technology is the same as the companys "Cool and Quiet" technology intended for laptop applications.

For AMD customers this technology could be crucial. "We have a lot of our customers in the server world who are really facing a lot of power infrastructure issues," said Margaret Lewis, AMDs commercial software strategist. According to Lewis, customers are finding that they cant provide more power to their data centers than they already have, and they cant provide more cooling, either. She said that the best they can do is make judicious use of the power they have.

"Hotter processors take more power, and they require more power to cool," Lewis said. She added that in many cases, data center constraints mean they cant have more power, and even those enterprises that can add more would rather not do it. By slowing the processor down when its not working hard, the power requirement is reduced, and the resulting heat generation is reduced.

While the PowerNow technology has been built into Opteron processors produced since May, machines with these processors need a BIOS update from AMD to make it work. And, of course their operating system needs to support PowerNow. To date, according to Lewis, there are two operating systems that have support, with another on the way: SuSE Linux Version 9 for the desktop and server, and Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2. Still to come is Windows 2003 Server, which will support PowerNow when Service Pack 1 arrives. Lewis said that support for PowerNow is available in the Linux kernel, but most distributions have yet to include it. She said that Red Hat Linux should include the capability soon.

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Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...