But the CPU is only part of the problem when it comes to power efficiency, there’s the whole rest of the platform to worry about. The image below illustrates the power split between the CPU and the rest of the platform in a current single-core server.
The image below now compares the above data with a server running the forthcoming Woodcrest Core Microarchitecture CPU. As you can see, the amount of power draw from the CPU has dropped to 33 per cent of the total, leaving the rest of the platform to suck up the majority of power.
Of course Intel is also working to make the rest of the platform more energy efficient. Even though when a PC is in an idle state much of the CPU can lay dormant, a large portion of the supporting platform is still in use and drawing power. Part of this problem is keeping the display active, which insists that much of the platform is still utilised and therefore drawing power. Display Self Refresh allows for far less of the platform to be active in order to keep the display alive, thus reducing the power draw. Likewise, Intel’s Variable OS “Tick” will ensure that the platform only wakes up when it’s absolutely necessary.
Of course the whole concept of a dual/multi-core environment is also highly dependant on software support. Intel is working closely with many software developers to increase the number of multi-threaded applications on the market. Once every application you run starts to take advantage of multi-core hardware, we’ll really see the true benefit that this latest generation of hardware brings to the party.
As opening keynotes go, this one felt a little more subdued than previous efforts, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t important. It’s about time that the PC industry realised that low power, low heat and low noise is vitally important to consumer adoption, but not at the expense of performance either. In fact, a goot power/performance ratio is just as important in the server sector too and it looks like Woodcrest has that covered. If the new generation of Intel chips really do perform as expected, while drawing far less power than their predecessors, the future is definitely looking good, and Intel might just cross that next frontier.