Novell, AMD sync up on SUSE Linux power management

With the release of its first Service Pack, Novell's SUSE Enterprise Linux Server 10 will take advantage of power management functionality in AMD's upcoming Opteron quad-core processor.

Since Novell made first mention of its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Service Pack 1 (SLES SP1) earlier this year, chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) has been working with the operating system to ensure it is optimized for the upcoming quad-core AMD Opteron processors, code-named Barcelona.

More on green Linux:
Report: Linux, open source greener than Windows 

Much of the work, said AMD's director of commercial applications Margaret Lewis, centered on incorporating AMD's PowerNow! power management technology into SLES 10 SP1 and SLES 9 SP4. PowerNow! is a dashboard-based application that conserves power in AMD-based computers. The CPU's clock speed and VCore is automatically decreased when the computer is under low load or idle to save power and reduce heat.

Today, AMD and Novell are working to make sure the technology is ready for the arrival of the quad-core Opteron processors, which are due out sometime this summer, Lewis said.

"PowerNow allows a user to set up a processor so that if it falls below a certain utilization rate, it will drop the power delivered to the server and provide the processor with only enough power to meet the utilization rate. Many servers run at a 25% utilization rate, but at 100% power," she said.

Linux goes green

Power management recently took front-burner status for many in the Linux community after the Linux Foundation organized a "Green Linux" initiative to improve resource and energy management with the Linux operating system.

According to the foundation, making Linux green is becoming more important in all aspects of Linux adoption, from desktop to server. No specific details have been released, but members of the foundation said during the recent Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit at Google's Mountain View campus that they will work with its workgroups, identify key projects and coordinate resources among its members to improve power management functionality in the Linux platform.

The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit consortium dedicated to promoting the growth of Linux on the server, desktop and mobile devices. Founded in 2007, the foundation sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds.

For her part, Lewis was pleased that key members of the Linux community had taken on power management. "With the topic of power management in computing so huge right now, it definitely doesn't surprise me to see this kind of initiative coming out of the Linux community," Lewis said. "People need to start paying more attention to it."

This isn't the first green Linux news in 2007. In March, a report from the U.K. Office of Government Commerce found that because computers running Linux could combat the rising problem of e-waste they lasted up to twice as long as machines running Windows.

SUSE Linux and AMD RAS

Novell SLES 10 SP1 is also optimized to take advantage of Opteron's reliability, availability and scalability (RAS) features and 64-bit physical memory addressing capabilities inherent in Barcelona, Lewis said.

RAS allows the OS to receive information from the processor and the memory that processor owns. IT managers can control certain conditions and establish settings to monitor the processor. Lewis said most of the configurations are specifically targeted at addressing memory errors. "[RAS] cuts down the possibility of having a hardware failure that could possibly corrupt data or bring a server down. As we have attempted to eliminate waste with PowerNow, [RAS] brings an additional level of reliability," Lewis said.

Power management functionality and Opteron quad-core support was also included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 when it was released in March. "This is an open source kernel, after all, and we often get patches put into the mainline kernel to support these features. The major distributions pull that code down and blend it into their respective OSes," Lewis said.

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