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El Reg Article – Power Managment

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This is the article for The Register that never got published. They approached it from a different angle in the second “set” of articles instead. We were asked to submit a response to the question “What capabilities exist these days for power management, and what needs to be in place (in terms of software versions, management tools, processes) to benefit?”

Power management is a pretty broad topic. Hardware dependant, there are basic items we are all aware of. Monitors can go on stand by, disks can be spun down, and computers can be put into sleep. You can turn off your wireless radios, dim the backlight and unplug the USB coffee warmer. CPUs can downclock when not loaded, or shut down unused cores. (Some) GPUs can back down to an almost reasonable idle wattage, flash eats less power than magnetics, and bigger drives mean fewer spindles for the same capacity.

Let’s look a little bit beyond that, however. Depending on any of a whole lot of conditions, you can tell your system to power down just about any piece of hardware it contains. An example fun power management trick with nothing more than the OS is the PC as an alarm clock. Simply set up a Scheduled Task to wake it up from hibernation and play an MP3. Yes, most cell phones can do the same trick for less power; however this example is used to cause us to think about such tricks on a larger scale.

You can manually put your systems to sleep, use Scheduled Tasks or a GPO to tell your desktops to “go to sleep” at an appointed time. For some after-hours maintenance, Windows is perfectly happy to wake a sleeping or hibernating system up in order to install updates, run a virus scan, etc. and then go right back to sleep afterwards. The real fun however comes with Wake-On-LAN (WOL). WOL software can be configured to awaken systems according to any schedule you wish. As an example WOL software could power up PCs before users arrive at work, or stagger start-up of systems so only those that need to be on at any given time are.

For those looking to experiment, check out MagiWOL, AMD’s Magic Packet or Solar Winds’ free WOL utility. While there are dozens of software packages and even websites that you can use to schedule WOL on a small network, if you need something more robust, custom router firmwares such as DD-WRT offer simple but powerful WOL scheduling.

For larger deployments you are better off with some system management software. (SMS). Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager is an example of a fairly popular choice that can (among other things) coordinate WOL across large networks. If you run a network with many desktops but do not have some form of SMS, there are dozens of companies out there eagerly awaiting your call. If you do have SMS, chances are it already has the tools to help you with WOL. SMS combined with some well crafted GPOs can make a noticeable difference in corporate power usage where ever watt saved is also one less watt you have to cool.

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