Opteron gets power management

In an effort to help enterprise users get a handle on power and heat issues associated with new server designs that pack more processing punch in smaller spaces, Advanced Micro Devices on Monday announced that systems built with its 32/64-bit Opteron processor will include power management technology by the middle of the year.

Called PowerNow!, the technology has been available on AMD's mobile chips since 2000. PowerNow! will be included in Opteron-based servers and workstations in the first half of next year, says Brent Kerby, AMD product marketing manager.

The PowerNow! technology enables a CPU to have "multiple performance states," meaning that CPU frequency and voltage can be ramped up and down according to application workloads, Kerby says.

"Instead of sitting there and running full power all the time when it's not necessary, the PowerNow! technology offers the processor the ability to drop down the frequency and voltage, therefore keeping the data center cooler," he says.

The technology can be managed dynamically through a Windows or Linux operating system. Enterprise users also can set CPU performance thresholds through systems management applications, Kerby says.

Enterprise users can expect this type of power management capability to become widespread, analysts say. Intel Corp. has said it plans to add power-management technology to its Itanium and Xeon processors in the next year.

"Multicore chips is part of (what's driving it)," says Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata. "The other thing is as they come out with more sophisticated virtualization provisioning software it really becomes much more practical to move software loads around so that power management in the data center as a whole is going to become more important and much more possible."

He adds that it's not clear how much software support will be available for PowerNow! on Opteron when it is released.

"Of course, one of the rubs is that the hardware capability gets put in, but it often takes quite some time for software that is actually deployed at customer sites to take advantage of it," Haff says.

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