Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Energy efficient Green PCs

There are three reasons as to why any company would want to go Green—to save money, to earn money (through carbon credits) and due to government regulations. Although there are no government regulations in India that compel companies to think Green, companies are finding newer ways to reduce energy consumption on their own owing to their corporate social responsibility. The issue is one of sustainability rather than cost, although energy-efficient products help customers lower the cost of ownership and help meet the broader goal of protecting the environment. The focus on energy efficiency is to design a product that helps customers to decrease power consumed by the system and the system’s operating cost, which is long approach. Desktop PCs and workstations often consume huge amounts of energy that are overlooked by most organizations as they keep their ‘green’ focus limited to the data center. In many cases, organizations want to reduce power consumption of desktop PCs but are not too sure how to go about the same. There are myriad product offerings in the market to reduce the carbon footprint of desktops and workstations in an organization but it is important to understand what suits your organization the best.

Green PC initiatives

We see a greater emphasis on energy efficiencies in the desktop PC market. [The recent IDC ‘Go Green PC Power Play Study’ had some interesting statistics. The report found that the US federal government could save more than $82.4 million in energy costs—the equivalent of conserving more than 1.3 million barrels of oil in just one year—if its more than 10 million existing ENERGY STAR 3.0 PCs were updated to the new 4.0 standard.

Dell’s recently launched new line of commercial desktop solutions cut power consumption by up to 43%. A major trend is that we witnessing small form factor devices in the desktop space, where Dell’s offerings include the Optiplex 755, 740, 960 with the option of the ultra small form factor in the Optiplex 760.

Dell also launched two new models aimed at the business user. Pallab Talukdar, Director, Enterprise Business, Dell India explained, “The Latitude E-Series notebooks were designed after listening to the needs of nearly 4,000 businesses and IT professionals. The result is Dell’s thinnest, lightest and most powerful business notebooks ever and all-day computing with breakthrough battery life of up to 19 hours.”

“Dell in India is committed to bringing the same energy and commitment towards environment-friendly policies as in other parts of the world and continues to take the lead through its products, processes and policies,” Talukdar added.

HP’s initiative in Green PCs keeps Indian conditions in mind. Deepti Dang, Head of Marketing-Commercial and SMB, Personal Systems Group, HP India said, “We have a design center called IDC or the India Design Center and the basic objective of this center are to make products for India that suit Indian conditions—products that consume less power and give better productivity keeping global warming in mind.”

One of the products developed at the HP India Design Centre is called the Mini DT or the HP Compaq dx2009. This business PC is a high-performance machine that has the ability to withstand harsh Indian working conditions. It has a small form factor and is ideal for organizations, which struggle with challenges such as space limitations, data security and power consumption, especially in the ITES sector.

Lenovo also offers various desktops and notebook PCs that are targeted at reducing energy consumption. The company recently announced the launch of the ThinkCentre A62 in the Indian market. It is a cost-effective, environmentally responsible and manageable desktop PC, which provides enterprise and SMB customers with improved TCO throughout a longer PC lifecycle. Additionally it uses up to 40% less electricity than its ThinkCentre predecessor due to the efficiency of the new AMD 15W CPU, the Athlon 2650e, which is available on select models. The system is GREENGUARD and EPEAT Gold certified, ENERGY STAR 4.0 rated, and has as an option, the ‘Green’ fingerprint keyboard made of 35% post consumer recycled material.

On the notebook front, the new ThinkPad T Series from Lenovo has improved energy efficiency by more than 25% over previous T Series models. Hardware improvements such as LCD Backlight Displays and SSDs use less battery power and generate less heat. Switchable graphics let users move to lower quality graphics when they need to maximize battery life. Addition, when there is no activity, the optical disk drive and audio auto switch to a low power state. Coupled with software enhancements such as the new Green Power Scheme, Battery Stretch, and ThinkPad Energy Saver technology, the ThinkPad T Series lets users get the most out of their mobile computing time. Battery stretch is a new feature that allows temporary selections in extreme situations to extend battery life beyond what regular Power Manager Settings might produce. With this easy interface, users can, for example, minimize the display refresh rate or disable certain wireless communications devices to help preserve the power users need to finish their work unplugged.

“In the current scenario, all over the world corporates are turning towards innovative solutions to lower their power costs,” said Vinay Shetty, Product Manager, Components Business, ASUS (India). He continued for example, our Eee Box is a conventional desktop that runs only on 20 Watts of power, which results in 90% power saving as compared to a normal desktop.

Green components

Now that we have seen some of the initiatives and offering from major PC vendors, let us try to understand how they achieve this low power envelope. Following are some of the components that most vendors target to cut energy consumption.

* Monitor: Apart for a number of other benefits that LCDs offer over CRTs, power consumption is of prime concern. A CRT consumes about 60-80 Watts for a 15-inch model to almost 70 to 150 Watt for 17 and 19 inch models whereas an LCD monitor’s power consumption is only about 25 Watts. A backlit LCD helps reduce energy consumption for notebooks.
* Storage media: While HDDs remain the most sought after media for storage on PCs, SDDs are gradually becoming popular. An SSD reduces the power consumption by 50% when compared to a conventional Hard Disk Drive. SSDs do not heat up, reducing the power that is required to cool a PC. Although SSDs are a common option for notebooks, even a few desktops offer SSDs for storage. However, due to extremely high prices of SSDs, this technology might see higher adoption in the notebook space, where its durability and quick boot advantages make more of an impact, when compared to desktops. Many organizations and individuals who need the benefits of using an SSD do not mind the additional expense.
* Cooling: There are varieties of fans that go inside a PC to prevent it from heating up. The function of a traditional air fan is both, to take in fresh air and at the same time expel hot air from the CPU cabinet. Fans with variable speeds can largely reduce the power consumption, considering the fact that average CPU utilization levels are below 20% in both desktops as well as notebooks.
* Processor: With the shrinking of the x86 micro-architecture and emergence of multi-core processors, power consumption is also taking a dip. A shift towards 45 nm micro-architecture has helped reduce the power envelope for both desktops and notebooks. Ensuring that you are using the latest make of processor can further help in reducing power consumption.

Source: http://www.expresscomputeronline.com/20090119/greenit02.shtml