Last week, Intel announced a new chip design that promises less power use per unit time, along with embedded security and management functions. The goal is to provide a 3.5 times performance-per-watt improvement over today's single-core Xeon based server CPU. Intel's CEO Paul Otellini said that this new design goal would be implemented across all design lines.
Anyone who has taken the lid off their computer can easily see the large heat sink atop of a CPU -- some video cards even have heat sinks on the graphics card processors. Heat is a killer of an electronic system -- heat is generated when electricity passes through electrical components, and is a wasteful by-product of the electronic component. All of the fans inside your computer are trying to push heat outside of the box -- at the expense of a higher power bill. Some chips get so hot that they can stop working if the heat sink is removed for even a few minutes. All of this heat costs money to remove -- from the power to run the fans inside the computer, to the large air conditioners that remove heat from the computer room. And this cost increases when one considers that backup power requirements that all these computers, along with the air conditioners require when the main power is cut off.
Laptop computers face even greater heat challenges -- the compact design that laptops feature leave little space for large heatsinks. Some laptops have the keyboard serve the heat-sink role, and you can actually feel warm keys, as the laptop tries to remain cool. Others have fans on them to discharge the hot air, or they may cycle their internal speeds downwards to reduce heat by reducing performance.
The other part of Intel's announcement concerns the incorporation of microcontroller chips that will be added to the networking chipset in the new processor platforms. This controller would be used to assist deployment and monitor systems by allowing IT professionals access to the hardware to debug, update, and even control a system without accessing it via the main OS installed on that system.
Dedicated server hardware already sees a level of remote-control independant of the OS, and these innovations will work to strengthen the remote control capabilities of the server hardware. Anything that will let me work with a crashed OS on the box remotely is a positive in my book.
These innovations will be exciting to watch, especially with other developments of faster WiFi and the development of smaller computing devices.