The battle over performance per watt continues to be waged by the x86ers AMD and Intel, as well as the systems providers such as Dell, IBM, HP and Sun. Dell just launched new servers based on 2.33 gigahertz low-voltage Intel Xeon chips. Dell also talks about energy saving tweaks to the entire systems, such the power supply, fans, demand switching via the BIOS and low power memory (clocking down 667 memory to 533), but most of the power saving comes from the processor choice.
The company claims the new servers are more energy efficient benchmarked against comparable HP and IBM servers, and save about $200 per server per year compared to the previous generation of Intel processor-based systems. The company will extend its 'Energy Smart' platform to the OptiPlex desktop line in the near future, according to Jay Parker, Dell's director of worldwide marketing for PowerEdge servers. The company will likely apply the Energy Smart technology to blade servers as they become more high volume products, Parker told me.
David Berlind took Dell to task for not disclosing its benchmarking methodology. In May, the non-profit Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC) formed a committee to create standard methods and metrics for comparing energy use of servers, but so far hasn't come up with a good way to measure power efficiency consistently across the industry.
Today, AMD announced that its new line of 65-nanometer Athlon 64 X2 processors, due next year, consume about 50 percent less power than the Intel Core 2 Duo. ExtremeTech has a story on AMD's new chips with details on how the company explains its power savings:
...AMD's sales team is also attempting to convince customers that even its older "Rev. F" 65-watt, 90-nm chips actually consume less power than Intel's Core 2 Duo components, with the delta even more magnified when its new 35-watt, 65-nm chips are compared.
AMD's argument goes like this: modern desktop and notebook processors constantly scale up and down between full speed and an idle state, which AMD has branded "Cool 'n' Quiet". At a given time, pushed to full load by an application, AMD's chips run hotter and consume more power. But across a typical computing day – where a user might check his email or surf the Web – the processor idles more often then not. At idle, AMD's 90-nm Athlon 64 X2 consumes 7.5 watts. Its latest 65-nm chips idle at 3.8 watts. By comparison, the 65-nm Core 2 Duo idles at 14.3 watts.
AMD's 90-nm/65 watt Athlon 64 X2 chips consumed 47.6 percent the power of a 65-nm Core 2 Duo chip, the company said. A 35-watt X2 consumes 73.3 percent of the power of the same Core 2 Duo. However, directly comparing the two chips' power load, in a real-world computing environment, over the course of a day, would be a daunting task, Huynh [Jack Huynh, responsible for marketing and business development at AMD's desktop division] acknowledged.
I am sure that Intel is busy preparing its response to AMD's latest salvo.