Who has the upper hand on Energy Efficiency? AMD or Intel?

AMD has dominated the Energy Efficiency debate on the desktop and server platforms for the last 2 years until Intel opened up a significant lead with its Core 2 desktop and server products.  The only thing in dispute is the size of Intel's performance and energy efficiency lead.

AMD has dominated the Energy Efficiency debate on the desktop and server platforms for the last 2 years until Intel opened up a significant lead with its Core 2 desktop and server products.  The only thing in dispute is the size of Intel's performance and energy efficiency lead.  AMD still has a highway marketing campaign on Highway 101 in the Silicon Valley talking about the billions of dollars being saved when AMD processors are used in place of Intel NetBurst architecture CPUs, but is this even relevant?  Apparently it is still half relevant since Intel continues to sell and produce its older line of less efficient processors and will continue to do so for a few more quarters.

Normally I would have people post comments, questions, and disagreements in my talkback but this is a unique situation.  We have Dr. Dileep Bhandarkar who is the Architect at Large at Intel.  Everyone is welcome to ask Dr. Bhandarkar questions.  So I invite you to ask an Intel Architect any questions pertaining to processors, performance, and energy efficiency in this TechRepublic forum.  For our ZDNet readers, TechRepublic is a sister organization and your ZDNet credentials can be used in TechRepublic so you can participate right away.

Energy efficiency isn't just something that should matter to the energy conservationist, it's serious money.  For example, every 1000 watts running round the clock costs an average $65 per month in the USA (based on 9 cents per kilowatt*hour), and that doesn't begin to include the electricity needed to run the air conditioning to remove the heat generated from all of the computer equipment.  One hundred servers for example would consume $2,160 per month and 600 desktop PCs would consume $6,480 in electricity, again not counting air conditioning costs.  If energy consumption can be cut by 30% (which is easily doable), an organization using 100 servers and 600 desktops would save $2,592 per month plus a lower air conditioning bill which could easily double the savings.  For a mid-sized company with a mid-sized IT department, saving $4000 per month is significant.  If the company were ten times this size, the savings would be ten times as large.

So just how does IT cut power consumption and what makes a more energy efficient computer and data center?  There are many factors that dramatically affect energy efficiency and they are.

  • CPU TDP (Thermal Design Power) (example here)
  • Mobile computer components
  • Power supply efficiency (example here and here)
  • LCD versus CRT monitor (on the desktop)
  • Virtualization and server consolidation (introduction)
  • More power full multi-core CPUs enable virtualization (arrival of quad core)
  • Enabling power saving mode on energy star equipment
  • DC power distribution, data center level, rack level, or blade chassis level

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