HP power researcher argues we have a long way to go

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PCWorld has an article about HP Labs distinguished technologist Parthasarathy Ranganathan, and his take on where with are with respect to the use of power in our digital endeavours.

HP logo“We’ve made tremendous progress over the past several years,” said HP Labs distinguished technologist Parthasarathy Ranganathan, in an interview with IDG. “But when you look at the fundamental limits,” the industry could make quantum leaps in efficiency, he said.

How much so? Extending the arguments of famed physicist Richard Feynman into the digital age, Ranganathan estimated that, based on “the physical limits on the power costs to information transfer,” the power used by a single handheld could, in theory, power a billion desktop computer processors.

Ranganathan is the project manager of HP’s Exascale Data Center project. In his ten years of studying power use, he’s noticed some common troublespots whether designing an exascale power system or a new cellphone and he’s put some of them on paper in an ACM journal article (Recipe for Efficiency: Principles of Power-Aware Computing).

For instance, one technique that could be more widely used, in Ranganathan’s view, is “spending energy to save energy.” The idea is to introduce new capabilities that lower overall energy usage, even if the capabilities themselves require additional energy to run.

One example would be a program that periodically scans memory of servers to reclaim portions that have been reserved by programs but are no longer being used. Reclaim enough memory and you can consolidate operations on a fewer number of servers, he said.

More thoughts from Ranganathan in both the PCWorld and ACM articles.