Intel to ship OS Independent Power Management

Power Management is strategic for Intel. reports Intel is dedicating 1 million transistors to do power management functions on chip.

That news was revealed to this reporter by an Intel employee as senior vice president Pat Gelsinger was delivering his IDF keynote, which included more specifics about Nehalem, the family of chips the company plans to begin rolling out in the fourth quarter. Gelsinger, the general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, showed the first wafer holding individual eight-core processors, detailed the power-saving features of the Nehalem processors, and confirmed future mobile Nehalem processors.

Intel Nehalem processor lineup as shown at IDF 2008

Most of his keynote centered on Nehalem, and one of the features Intel was pushing hard at IDF was a technology called Turbo mode.

Turbo mode is essentially a switch that turns off unused processor cores and then uses the remaining active cores more efficiently. This kind of sophisticated power-management technology will be used in both Nehalem-based laptops and servers, according to Gelsinger, and will become increasingly necessary as Intel brings out chips with more cores like the eight-core Nehalem processor due next year.

In short, in multi-core processors, cores not doing much can still use power. So, it's better to use, for example, a couple of cores more efficiently than four cores inefficiently.

Turbo mode is enabled by a "power control unit which is an integrated microcontroller which only works on power management," said Rajesh Kumar, an Intel Fellow, who spoke during Gelsinger's keynote. There are about 1 million transistors dedicated solely to power management, Kumar said.

This makes a lot of sense to eliminate the dependency for power management from the OS or Hypervisor.  If Intel continues down this path, they could build power management integrated into their motherboards independent of the OS.

Saving energy is a top differentiation for Intel. Intel gets it that they need to support Green sustainable computing.  And, this is a way for them to drive upgrades.