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It's Not Easy Being Green

Comments(0)Filed under: Low power , Logic Design, green

Today we at Cadence launched a "green campaign".  It may sound like we're late to the "green" party, but we’ve had the technology and solutions for green design in-place for a few years now.  This campaign is about awareness - it is clear that the electronics industry still has room for improvement.  We have published a paper that cites some interesting figures related to energy consumption and the role that electronics plays.  For instance:

It is estimated that data centers alone consume about 7 gigawatts, roughly equivalent to the output of 15 power plants

That’s a lot, you say, but data centers are vital to the information economy.  And a lot of that energy goes towards cooling these high performance machines.  But consider this:

Of the $250 billion spent powering computers worldwide in 2006, only about 15% of that power was actually spent computing—the rest was wasted idling.

Now, this is all computers, not just data centers, which are more highly-utilized than home computers.  But any power savings we can affect in those data centers almost counts as double because reducing power reduces heat and thus the need to cool them.  Back to the home front:

Furthermore, it is estimated that 40% of the energy used to power the electronic systems in the typical American home is consumed while these devices are turned off

Some devices are worse than others.  I recently wrote about gaming consoles that consume 5x the power of a refrigerator while not in use, and that post also has a link to a study that looked at all kinds of home electronics.  Clearly there is plenty of opportunity to improve the power efficiency of electronics.

As I talk to customers whose companies have launched “green campaigns”, there is a lot of confusion, and in a lot of cases the feeling is that “it’s a corporate-level thing, I’m not sure how much difference we can make in digital design…we have our own pressures, and reducing power makes those even more difficult”.  It’s not easy being green.  But we can all make a difference. 

A school district near me has started saving money by simply turning lights off from 11pm to 6am.  This will help them offset budget cuts.  Ultimately in business it’s about the bottom line.  Especially in today’s economy, there are a lot of inefficiencies that can be eliminated to reduce costs without affecting revenue-generating investments (like people!).  That’s “green” that even businesses can appreciate.  

Throughout Cadence’s “green campaign” we will look at what can be done in our space to make our electronics more green, in both senses of the word.  Some upcoming posts will cover the complexities of balancing "green" with other core differentiators, some of the plusses and minuses of the key low power techniques, and managing the risk of adopting these techniques.

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