Intel open-source project to make Linux better.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Power management in Linux has been difficult to do. On Sept. 20, Intel announced the launch of an open-source community project, LessWatts.org, which is designed to meet the demands for increased energy efficiency from data center servers to personal mobile devices.

LessWatts
was unveiled at IDF (Intel Developer Forum) in San Francisco by Renee James, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's software and solutions group. The LessWatts.org initiative brings together the community of Linux developers, ISVs and users to facilitate technology development, deployment, and tuning and sharing of information around Linux power management.

Linux's core developers agree that there is a pressing need for making Linux greener. At the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit held at the Googleplex in June, leading Linux kernel programmer Andrew Morton said that "power management is no longer on or off." The problem, as always, the developers agreed, is that "Linux needs specifications for devices."

Jesse Barnes, a Linux developer from Intel, added that while Intel has been putting resources into power management, "We don't have enough, and we need other vendors to step up."

James Bottomley, vice president and chief technology officer of Steeleye Technology, a high-availability Linux vendor, said: "We're getting everyone to look at power management strategies." He feels that while power management "will never be perfect, at least we will have the instrumentation and a lot of knobs to twiddle."

Much of the concern for improved power management comes not so much from an interest in green computing as from vendors wanting to use Linux in their mobile devices. Greg Kroah-Hartman, a SUSE Linux developer added: "Mobile is asking for power management. I think the servers want it too, but they don't know it."

Theodore 'Ted' T'so, an IBM Linux developer, said: "A lot of the low-hanging fruit has been plucked on the kernel side" when it comes to power management. For example, many power management problems can be solved by improving Linux ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) support, because most of the power control is currently hidden away in devices' proprietary firmware, where Linux developers can't get to it.

Now, with LessWatts, Intel is seeking to open up power management from large data centers, where server power consumption imposes limits on a center's growth and has significant financial and environmental costs to mobile users who are constrained by power consumption limits, as battery space is continually squeezed with the overall reduction in size of mobile devices.

"We created LessWatts.org to accelerate technology development and simplify information sharing for effective power management across a broad spectrum of devices and industry segments that are utilizing Linux," said James. "A focused initiative that aggregates the disparate efforts into a holistic system and builds on our existing efforts with the industry in the Climate Savers Computing Initiative will serve as a strong catalyst to get energy-efficient solutions into the market segment faster, thereby benefiting the customers who purchase Intel-based products."

The LessWatts.org initiative encompasses several key projects including Linux kernel enhancements (such as the Linux 2.6.21 "tickless idle" feature that takes better advantage of power saving hardware technologies), the PowerTOP tool that helps tune Linux applications to be power aware and the Linux Battery Life Toolkit to measure and instrument the impact of Linux code changes on power savings.

Additionally, LessWatts.org provides Linux support for hardware power saving features being implemented in current and upcoming Intel platforms.

Intel is not making this move on its own. Other vendors have joined in the LessWatts initiative. "Community contributions are a fundamental part of Oracle's long-standing commitment to Linux and our collaboration with Intel in projects such as LessWatts.org is another proof point," said Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's vice president of Linux engineering.

"LessWatts.org can help customers reduce data center power consumption and make use of the latest hardware technologies, while further advancing the development, adoption and deployment of enterprise Linux solutions."

The leading corporate Linux vendors are also on board. "In response to customer demand for power savings across their entire IT environment, we've implemented significant features in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 that allow our customers to minimize their carbon footprint," said Paul Cormier, executive vice president of engineering at Red Hat, in a statement. Red Hat continues to work closely with Intel to provide customers with ecologically sensitive solutions, and we look forward to actively contributing to the LessWatts.org project."

Jeff Jaffe, Novell executive vice president and chief technology officer, said: "Novell is working hard to be eco-friendly and customer-friendly at the same time by providing better power management technologies as part of SUSE Linux Enterprise. We are committed to helping drive the technology forward as part of LessWatts.org and providing value to our customers by incorporating that technology into upcoming SUSE Linux Enterprise releases."

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