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Measurement of power efficiency is not a straightforward goal, though. Tests of Intel- and AMD- based servers by Neal Nelson Associates showed, for example, that the way memory buffers are used can effect power consumption.

Other areas Steigerwald and his team have identified in a preliminary paper on energy-efficient software include better multi-threading strategies and improvements to DVD playback.

"We have spoken to DVD vendors and the gaming community about how we can reduce the power demands of these devices. We have had some success in areas such as reducing the frame rate and better use of caching," Steigerwald said.

What is slightly odd about Intel's work is that it should be a hardware company taking the lead in this increasingly important area. Leading software companies - those who one would expect to be pushing forward with efficient software - are, with one exception, conspicuous by their absence. Steigerwald noted that he has spoken to Adobe Systems on the issue.

The other half of the once great Wintel alliance, Microsoft, is among those absent. "There are no indications that Microsoft is doing any thing - my group does not have a relationship with Microsoft," Steigerwald said.

Considering the prevalence of Windows running on Intel you'd think there was ample room to improve the way its operating systems talk to the underlying hardware, to reduce the amount of resource consumption.

To be fair, Microsoft has made some moves in the direction of energy efficiency through its participation in the Energy Star programme. It is also possible to configure Windows Vista to improve power usage.

However, there's clearly a large part for ISVs to play. For example, application and operating system performance and tuning are subjects you frequently hear talked about, but from the perspective of user or server response times and rarely in terms of power efficiency. Yet there is a role, from designing and writing code that doesn't gamble on the availability of fatter hardware to writing smart algorithms, with some already offering their advice.

As the green bandwagon gathers speed there will be growing pressure on those developing and selling software to respond, in the same way manufacturers in other sectors of the economy are also being forced to change their ways and address green issues. As that pressure grows, today's trickle of activity is likely to turn into a torrent.®

Watch The Register's Green Computing Debate online today.

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