How Load-Adaptive Computing Optimizes Energy Use to Improve Your Bottom Line

"Turn off computers at night" is a simplistic solution to saving energy. For a more efficient approach to lowering your energy costs, consider the benefits of load-adaptive computing technology.

By Mark Davidson

At the top of nearly every list of IT energy reduction tips you'll read, "Turn PCs off at night and on weekends when they aren't in use." Would you be surprised to learn that even when your enterprise's PCs are being used by your staff, up to 30 percent of the energy being consumed by each PC or laptop is wasted? Typical users only need a fraction of the processing power that their PCs actually consume to operate effectively during the work day. Until PC power management became a focal point for green business initiatives, energy had been wasted and the problem unaddressed (and largely unrecognized).

Traditional PC-based power management has only focused on reducing energy consumption waste during non-business hours, primarily nights and weekends. This is quite a simplistic solution: When the user is away, power off the devices. A Microsoft Windows capability has already incorporated a significant amount of this work for customers. Manufacturers have also created energy-reduction capabilities into their chipsets, allowing users to "cap" the amount of power the server consumes.

Such technology has been used in the data center and in distributed offices for some time now. However, the newest innovations in enterprise energy management leverage these native features to match device utilization with the amount of energy it consumes, delivering the ultimate in energy efficiency, without negatively impacting the end-user experience. This capability is referred to as load-adaptive computing.

Load-Adaptive Computing Brings Balance to Energy Use

The most robust enterprise energy management solutions provide multi-faceted value to the distributed office environment, allowing companies to:

  • Manage devices that do not have built-in power-management capabilities, such as monitors, VoIP phones, and printers

  • Better tailor a device's energy optimization to the way the device is used, through behavioral analysis

  • Determine whether current power-management capability actually shifts your devices to a lowered power state when not in use

  • Measure and report exactly how much energy your company is saving through these existing power-management capabilities

This barely scratches the surface in terms of unique capabilities and benefits your enterprise can realize from the latest energy management innovations. These solutions improve PC power management by enabling power management during the workday; they also extend energy management to just about any other network-connected device that does not have these built-in capabilities, such as monitors, printers, scanners, and VoIP phones.

It's shocking to realize that the modern PC has hundreds of thousands of times the processing power of the computers that sent the first astronauts to the moon. Even our cell phones have hundreds of times more processing power than those early computers. Because of falling prices and Moore's Law (the premise that every 18 months the available processing power doubles at the same price), we are continually getting more powerful and capable PCs. However, traditional enterprises only use a fraction of the processing power that today's PCs actually provide.

PC manufacturers and operating system vendors have developed policies that can make today's PCs more energy efficient. For example, JouleX's (the company I work for) Energy Manager is an enterprise energy management platform that leverages those policies to allow your company's IT energy usage to be managed during business hours by dynamically adjusting processor performance levels based upon how that PC is being utilized. It can also be done in such a way that end users see no difference in the performance or capabilities of their machines.

An enterprise energy management solution that monitors utilization gives your company visibility into which machines are good candidates for load-adaptive computing policies. If a PC is heavy utilized (such as when users work with large spreadsheets or run simulation programs), then a sophisticated energy-management solution will allow the PC to continue operating at full speed. On the other hand, if long-term monitoring reports show that the PC has light or little utilization, you can enable the load-adaptive computing capabilities to adjust the power consumption ratio of that PC to a lower level. This type of power management can be effectively used to save up to 30 percent of the machine's energy consumption while performing the same amount of work but without impacting the user experience.

Location-Based Policies Provide More Efficient Device Control

In an office environment, energy should be made available for one reason only: to provide your users an efficient and reliable environment to do productive work. This means that determining the location of those users, relative to the work environment, is important.

Enterprise energy management solutions with location-based policies available through mobile apps give you the ability to enable efficient and automated control of the devices in your enterprise environment based on the proximity of your employees to their desks. When an employee crosses a pre-determined threshold (for example, 500 meters from their work stations or from the office) or swipes a security badge to enter or exit a building, the mobile app can trigger the location-based policy to power up or power down all supporting infrastructure, such as PCs, monitors, VoIP phones, printers, lighting systems, or even HVAC, depending on that user's needs.

By combining load-adaptive computing capabilities with location-based policies, you can drive efficiency in your workspace by understanding how devices are being utilized and knowing when devices are in use and adjust for performance and power. This ability to monitor, analyze, and control your enterprise's energy usage around the clock -- not just during non-business hours -- can add significant energy savings to your company's bottom line.

As sustainability officer at JouleX, a developer of sustainability tools and practices for corporations, Mark Davidson is at the forefront of the energy-management revolution. Davidson has been actively engaged in the industrial controls, IT, and information security industry for more than 25 years. His most noteworthy accomplishments have occurred during his involvement in successful startups that were acquired by Motorola, IBM, EMC, and Cisco. Davidson has also held technology executive roles with financial institutions and health-care organizations. Davidson's diverse background spanning industrial and nuclear process control, information security as well as executive level roles has provided valuable perspective when assisting customers with their design and implementation of sustainable business practices around energy. You can contact the author at mark.davidson@joulex.net.
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