Trimming the PC Power Draw


The combination of high energy costs and the threat of burgeoning desktop virtualization/thin-client architectures is apparently enough to kick-start low-power development efforts among leading desktop manufacturers and their component suppliers.


A wave of energy-conscious systems aimed at both individuals and enterprises is on the way, along with new power management software featuring both remote and automatic power monitoring and control options.


Manufacturers are no doubt taking notice of studies like this one from automation developer Kaseya, which indicates that desktops are left on nearly half of total non-work hours, typically evenings and weekends. That adds up to about 55 hours per week, representing $1.26 million in energy costs per year for a 10,000-workstation environment.


Dell and Lenovo are the latest manufacturers to delve into energy-efficient desktops. Dell recently unveiled a new generation of OptiPlex machines that draws up to 43 percent less energy than existing models, and the line even includes a thin client model for embedded or streamed applications or virtual desktop use. Lenovo has responded with the Energy Star-compliant ThinkCenter M58 and M58p, both featuring the Power Manager remote monitoring and control system that allows admins to shut workstations down during off hours.


On the component level, most attention has been paid to the low-power silicon from AMD and Intel. But memory systems, DRAM in particular, are looking to cut power usage as well. Low-voltage (down to 1.35 V) DDR2 and DDR3 modules from Micron and others are poised to make their way into desktops and servers.


Unfortunately for the desktop makers, there's a new generation of virtualization technology that will make it easier for organizations to reduce their dependence on the PC. Ncomputing, for example, is offering the X550 appliance that allows up to 11 users to tap into a single PC, cutting the cost of computing to about $70 per workstation. The company is targeting both commercial and education users.


Sharing PCs among users or deploying thin client architectures might not be everyone's cup of tea, however. For those who are still bent on the one-desktop-per-employee model, there's at least the means now to take a significant chunk out of operating costs.