Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, December 3, 2022

Understanding PC Power Management 

IT assets like desktop PCs, printers and servers are major users of energy, but not all of it is going to production. PCs in the US waste $2.8 billion a year in energy by remaining "on" when not in use. 

Using PC power management software to manage your environment

Around the world electricity costs are rising and businesses are feeling the pinch. NUS Consulting Group's 2011-­2012 International Electricity & Natural Gas Report and Price Survey showed that during 2012, in Europe, Italy experienced the largest single year increase in electricity at over 18 percent higher. Further afield, South Africa reported a 23.1 percent rise in its electricity pricing and Australia, 27.8 percent. Only the US has escaped major electricity price increases in the past few years staying largely static. However, that doesn't mean there isn't money to be saved.

IT assets like desktop PCs, printers and servers are major users of energy, but not all of it is going to production. PCs in the US waste $2.8 billion a year in energy by remaining "on" when not in use. For the green among us, that means that it would take 35 trees almost 10 years to absorb the CO2 of just one PC left running continuously.

Using PC power management solutions help businesses to save vital cash on their rising electricity bills. However, lack of knowledge and misperceptions as to their benefits has held back broader use in the past. A June 2013 survey of 127 IT managers in the UK public sector showed that only 9 percent of respondents have 'considerable knowledge' of PC power management software. Moreover, nearly 50 percent of IT managers believe savings from PC power management solutions to be less than the actual, proven savings. A dominant reason cited for lack of priority around energy-based savings was the misperception that 'cost savings cannot be clearly defined' (28 percent).

What can businesses expect from power management?

With simple changes and, with external support to manage their environment, firms can reduce the energy they consume and save costs with PC power management solutions. Typically scalable to 100,000 seats and suitable for notebook, desktop, Windows and Mac PCs, PC power management technology can provide a demonstrable cost reduction at every level – IT, staff and the overall business – through reduced energy consumption. Depending on the environment, this saving is around $92.50 (£60) per PC per year or $92,500 (£60,000) per year for a 1,000 computer organization.

Global oil and exploration company, Tullow Oil, recently implemented PC power management software across all of its 2,800 PCs in use at multiple sites across 15 countries in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. It can now create a baseline of energy consumption and then implement power policies to reduce its IT energy usage. The IT team can generate reports, detailing power usage of individual workstations worldwide, and enforce optimum energy efficiency across the organization.

Similarly, Loughborough University in the UK is using power management technology to manage its PC environment, reduce energy consumption costs and carbon emissions. The University's PC fleet includes 1,400 HP desktop PCs, 50 notebook PCs and 250 dual-boot iMacs. In use since 2011, the software has saved the University up to $46,200 (£30k) each year by 'throttling back' the energy consumption overnight and during weekends. The university achieved a return on investment within three months. It also reduced annual carbon emissions by 75,000lbs and saved 45,000kWh per year, making a significant contribution to the university's aim to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2016.

In practice, an IT department like Tullow Oil's might use PC power management systems during "working" hours of 8am to 6pm – PCs and monitors remain always-on, but monitors turnoff after 20 minutes of inactivity and PCs go into standby mode after 30 minutes of inactivity. At 6pm every night, if there is no activity, PCs go into standby and the monitors turn off. Employees working after hours can delay the software from powering down. IT typically performs software updates at 11pm, so a maintenance window can be created to power on all assets for 30 minutes at that time.

More advanced PC power management systems can also personalize 'the energy saving experience' to individual users. The system can learn user behavior – start time, coffee time, lunch break, finish time, etc. – fine-tuning the powering down of energy consumption and throttling back of energy at specific times of day.

It is also possible for PC power management systems to be connected with building control systems, enabling the powering-on of specific PCs as individuals pass through security control. By the time a user arrives at their workstation, their PC is ready for use. This takes PC power management systems into a new realm – improving employee productivity.

Deployment

The process of putting a PC power management program into action has never been easier. With simple onsite evaluation software that is easily installed, and agents that deploy the same day, companies can collect metrics and position policies just hours after PC power management software has been installed. Some PC power management solutions even offer cloud capabilities so businesses do not have to worry about running and maintaining the software on their own server infrastructure – it can be hosted and maintained for them.

To begin, it is important to note that an organization's first move towards power management should be phased. Most users would have not yet encountered their machines automatically going to sleep during the day, or turning completely off at night, it might take a little time for them to adjust to the new policies. That is why it is better to start with less strict power management policies initially and then fine-tune policies over time.

Reporting

In the same survey referenced above, 28 percent of 127 IT managers suggested that they did not regard energy-based cost savings as a priority because they believe that cost-savings cannot be clearly identified. This is also a mis-perception. PC power management software now offers excellent metrics to help IT determine just how effective their energy policy is by tracking the savings that are being made – even with a 100,000 seat deployment reporting is near real-time. PC users are also provided with feedback and stats promoting the benefits of the policies and its solutions – costs savings and environmental benefits by way of example.

It might be hard to believe, but PC power management comes at little cost. Full return on investment is achievable in just six to twelve months for on-premise software installations. PC energy management benefits the overall organization – by implementing such systems, the IT team can take a lead on helping organizations reduce costs.

The future

The reality is that energy costs will continue to rise. The requirement for reducing PC energy consumption will not go away. The 'cloud' might reduce power consumption in the datacenter as IT services are moved off-site, but endpoints will remain onsite and within the control and responsibility of the IT team. Even factoring in the rise of tablet PCs, the requirement for PC power management will not abate. For most professional IT users, the tablet has become a second screen not a primary screen – the laptop is not being replaced, but is being augmented by a tablet. This means that businesses are consuming even more energy. Thus, the time is right for IT teams and leaders to begin more effective management of their environment.

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