An Energy Star

An Energy Star

Craig Hershberg, product manager for office equipment and consumer electronics for EPA's Energy Star program, keeps an eye out for new hardware and applications that slash power consumption.

EPA wants to dispel the persistent myth that shutting a computer off at the end of the workday shortens its life span, the agency's Craig Hershberg said.

EPA, Energy and IT vendors devise ways to save electricity

What kind of technology should an agency manager buy to save electricity? The answer is far more complex than just shopping for low-watt office lights.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department cosponsor the Energy Star program to label electrical appliances that meet power-efficiency standards.

But what about servers, for which Energy Star has no labeling program or power-consumption standard? What about new monitors? And what about employees who disable their monitors' power-saving sleep mode because it takes too long to wake up?

The answers might lie in LCD monitors, denser servers with low-energy processors, power-saving settings on existing devices and simple education for workers.

For example, EPA wants to dispel the persistent myth that shutting a computer off at the end of the workday shortens its life span, said Craig Hershberg, EPA's Energy Star product manager for office equipment and consumer electronics.

'Bottom line, it's still better to shut it off every night,' Hershberg said. A PC automatically performs various diagnostic checks every time it boots up, and users miss out on the diagnostic benefits if they seldom shut down.

The Energy Star program is developing a power management application to ensure that workers enable the sleep function on their monitors, Hershberg said.

The software will let administrators control power management settings on all network clients.

Sleep on it

EPA has about 100,000 desktop systems. If all the monitors went into sleep mode when users were away from their desks, dropping consumption per monitor from 100 watts to 15 watts, it would save a lot of energy, Hershberg said.

A pilot version of the application will be available to other agencies soon. 'There's a real opportunity for the federal government to show the rest of the nation that we're leading the way,' Hershberg said.

The power management application focuses on monitors, which typically use more energy than computers. One of the biggest deterrents to activating the sleep function is the long wake-up time.

People who don't like to wait 12 seconds often disable the power management settings.

To deal with that issue, Intel Corp. has spearheaded development of Instantly Available PC, or IAPC, technology, Hershberg said.

IAPC wakes up a monitor in less than four seconds and lets it draw no more than 3 watts in sleep mode'a fraction of the 15-watt maximum required to earn the Energy Star label.

Job done well
EPA awarded Intel a certificate of recognition for developing IAPC, Hershberg said.

Nancy Sumrall, IAPC initiative manager for Intel, said the technology employs both hardware and software. The processor and chip set contain firmware from the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface 2.0 open specification, which appears at www.teleport.com/~acpi. Intel works with PC manufacturers that need help in implementing the technology, Sumrall said.

Resuming operations in five seconds or less will be the requirement for systems running the Microsoft Windows XP operating system, which is due out this fall, Sumrall said. Most new PCs resume operations from sleep mode in less than 10 seconds anyhow.

Notebook computers also can use IAPC, and because of their LCD screens, most draw about 3 watts in sleep mode, Sumrall said.

Intel and several other companies are developing power management technology for server farms that will put some of the machines to sleep while not in use, Sumrall said.

On average, CRT monitors use 80 to 120 watts while switched on. LCDs are much more energy-efficient at 30 to 50 watts in use.

Although LCDs still cost significantly more than CRTs, Hershberg said the Energy Star staff is fielding lots of agency questions about how to analyze the potential savings of a switch from a CRT to an LCD.

The large amount of waste heat from CRTs increases the need for cooling in offices with many computers, Hershberg said. He noted that Hitachi Data Systems Corp. in late July announced that it would no longer build CRTs.

EPA also wants users to know that PCs running a screen saver use only a little less power than those actively running applications. 'A lot of times, the screen saver prevents sleep mode from kicking in,' Hershberg said.

Although Energy Star doesn't issue its service mark to servers and network equipment, the program has recognized IBM Corp. for designing its z900 eBusiness enterprise server to use much less energy than its predecessors.

A single z900 server can be divided into tens, hundreds or even thousands of virtual servers, each running separate applications simultaneously, said Pete McCaffrey, IBM's zSeries marketing director.

The virtualization software, called the zSeries Virtual Machine or ZVM, can replace hundreds of servers in a server farm with a single refrigerator-size mainframe, which can sit in a smaller room with less air cooling, McCaffrey said.

IBM's copper-interconnect microprocessors, found in many of its high-end servers, also run cooler than processors with aluminum circuitry, McCaffrey said.

Another company that touts its microprocessors as energy misers is Transmeta Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. Transmeta's Crusoe processor uses a combination of hardware and software to cut power, said Frank Priscaro, the company's director of brand development.

The Crusoe chip has about one-third as many logic transistors as a conventional processor, Priscaro said. It uses a simple but powerful 128-bit instruction set called VLIW, for very long instruction word. A layer of software mediates between a 32-bit operating system and VLIW.

Crusoe systems can run regular Microsoft Windows or Linux or any other x86 OS. The conversion to VLIW is transparent to the user, Priscaro said.

In the long run

A power management utility called Long Run adjusts the power and performance of the Crusoe 200 times per second to accommodate the app running on the chip.

The first systems with Crusoe chips began arriving about a year ago, most of them portable computers from Asian manufacturers.

Crusoe chips are also going into ultradense servers such as those from RLX Technologies Inc. of Houston, Priscaro said. Crusoe-based servers can be packed together more closely than others.

Less is better

Jeff McNaught, vice president of market strategy for Wyse Technology Inc. of San Jose, Calif., said his company's thin-client appliances use less electricity than fully equipped desktop PCs.

'We didn't have to load up with processors, RAM or a big hard drive,' McNaught said. 'We use about the same amount of power as two night-lights. We save by not having to have a fan' in the desktop client. The RAM gets warm, he said, but not as hot as a processor.

McNaught said Wyse thin clients look like little toasters to which users can attach the display of their choice. The company also sells a unit with a low-energy LCD screen built in.

That appliance, the Winterm 3630 LE with a 15-inch LCD, uses about 25 watts'a fraction of the 350 watts used by a typical PC with a CRT, McNaught said.

The Winterm clients contain 300-MHz, Pentium-class Geode processors from National Semiconductor Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif.

A typical server that could handle 100 of Wyse's thin clients might draw 1,000 watts, or 10 watts per user, McNaught said. Servers process information more efficiently than a crowd of desktop PCs.

A thin-client desktop appliance drawing 25 watts and a server drawing 10 watts per thin client totals only 35 watts per seat, which adds up to a large savings over a PC network, McNaught said.

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