Intel has not yet reached the point where it can talk about server and desktop chip performance per watt metrics with a straight face, but the vendor has already tired of the concept. In the next three to five years, Intel plans to push the industry toward a new, more nebulous metric.
"Performance per watt is very misleading," Intel fellow Raj Yavatkar told The Register. "Rather than focusing on performance per watt let's look at satisfaction per watt."
Apparently, Satisfaction Per Watt (SPW – pronounced spew, we believe) leads to focusing on complete system performance rather than just chip performance. Intel has zeroed in on a number of tweaks that it can make to PCs and servers to improve power consumption, noise and other features. Customers care more about Satisfaction Per Watt than just performance per watt and will demand that companies take care of a broad set of needs, Yavatkar said, speaking here during the Intel Labs press day.
On the server and desktop front, Intel fell woefully behind AMD and even RISC competitors on the performance per watt scale. Intel was still talking about chips that would run hotter than the surface of the sun, when rivals started pushing low-power chips two years ago. Intel has just begun the process of rolling out new chips built with its "Core" architecture that finally address the performance per watt issue by lowering overall power consumption while still cranking through code at a solid clip.
CTO Justin Rattner denied the notion that Intel had to scramble to catch-up with competitors.
"There is some sense that this has been a recent effort," he said. "(Our) work has been going on for a long time."
That said, Intel has suffered in the marketplace by not being performance per watt competitive, especially with servers.
When asked if Intel seriously plans to replace performance per watt benchmarks with the new satisfaction per watt metric, Yavatkar said, "Absolutely."
Intel has a crack team of ethnographers working on measuring satisfaction characteristics and plans to push satisfaction per watt hard in three to five years, Yavatkar said.
While the whole concept seems vague to us, Yavatkar did point to a couple of concrete satisfaction efforts. Intel, for example, has been exploring the process of tying memory to LCD controllers in displays in the hopes of caching static display images. This would save battery life when a presenter went through a Power Point deck by stopping a notebook from refreshing the display unless the slide changed.
Intel is also looking into designing new struts for fans that would reduce noise consumption in desktops and servers.
By tweaking chips, chipsets and other components, Intel thinks it can get a satisfaction edge over pure play chips companies such as AMD.
Will consumers embrace satisfaction per watt? We have our doubts. The old GHz measure and performance pet watt scale seem easier to digest and easier to benchmark.
Leave it to Intel to change the game. ®
Perhaps to Intel's dismay, a smaller outfit has already coined the "satisfaction per watt" concept. Interested parties can travel over to page two of this PDF. Thanks, Matt.