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U South Carolina Cuts Computer Energy Use with Software

After trying out a new, free power saver utility on his laptop, a high performance computing administrator at the University of South Carolina has implemented an enterprise edition of the same software on a large set of computers and reaped dramatic energy savings. Paul Sagona, a member of the IT organization in the College of Engineering and Computing at the university, has deployed Granola Enterprise, a program from MiserWare, on 250 stand-alone computers.

Granola, tagged as "intelligent power management for Windows and Linux," was created by Kirk Cameron, an associate professor at Virginia Tech's Department of Computing Science, and former student Joseph Turner. Using proprietary algorithms, the program tracks how much computing power a user needs given the activities being performed and then modifies the computer's power settings to accommodate that.

"Our software adapts to the user's needs," explained Turner, vice president of engineering. "It's like having a car that is as fast as a Ferrari when you need it, yet as efficient as a Prius."

Since December 2010 Sagona has seen energy savings of 38 percent where the software is deployed. That equates to 10,280 kWh and a reduced carbon dioxide output of almost 14,000 pounds. The computers are located in seven labs and used for a variety of duties, including instructional classes, student projects, and assignments. Sagona said "over 100 software packages are loaded on the machines." The latest is a high throughput computing program called Condor, which, he said, "allows us to backfill--utilize unused cycles when machines are idle--with research such as molecular dynamics simulations and computational fluid dynamics."

Each computer running the software has a real-time energy savings calculator, which enables users to see the savings as they accrue. The enterprise edition provides a way to consolidate that reporting and manage the software running on those systems.

"Granola has an outstanding feature set [that] includes detailed reporting of savings information," said Sagona. "The latest version has a brand new Web interface that reports very detailed information on power savings. This new intuitive interface also lets users organize their machines into groups. This is very helpful in the enterprise environment when you're managing an extremely large number of machines."

He added that with Granola loaded on computers, the user's experience is "unaltered" and "unaffected.""Users don't have to change their behavior; Granola does its magic behind the scenes."

Sagona said he expects to roll out the program further in his department and propose its use across the campus as a green initiative.

The personal PC usage of Granola is free. The enterprise edition is $7.99 per computer per year in small quantities; the company also offers education discounts. It will launch a datacenter version of the software soon.

Further details can be found on MiserWare's Granola site here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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