Lean Office

Half of the intel in Google is wasted

By Jon Miller Published on June 14th, 2007

You know you’re a jaded TPS sensei too long in the Lean business when you read a headline like the one on 13 June 2007 in CNet News announcing Half the electricity in a PC is wasted: Intel, Google and your first thought is “Only half is wasted? Not bad.”

Roughly 50 percent of the power delivered from a wall socket to a PC never actually performs any work, according to Urs Hölzle, Google fellow and senior vice president of operations. Half the energy gets converted to heat or is dissipated in some other manner in the AC-to-DC conversion. Around 30 percent of the power delivered to the average server gets lost, he added. The power in both cases is lost before any work is accomplished by a computer: later, even more energy is lost by PCs sitting idle, or as heat dissipated by other components.

Now this is really appallingly bad. Let’s use some of that excess brainpower on 20% free-time at Google to fix this, shall we? Oh, what’s that Mr. Hölzle?

“This is not a technology problem. We have power supplies with 90 percent efficiency shipping today,” Hölzle said.

It’s not a technology problem, apparently. They could make the PC 90% to 93% energy efficient. The whopping $20 to $30 per PC cost increase is preventing them from doing this. I’ve given up rereading the article to see what part of it I had missed that would make this non-action make sense…
Somewhere between 200 million and 250 million PCs were sold last year. Let’s call it $20 per PC at 250 million and that’s 5 billion dollars. I know a company that starts with G that could spare $5 billion to fix this problem in 2008 (and it’s not Gemba).
Half of the intel at Google is wasted if huge non-technology problems like these are being non-solved, only researched. Only half is wasted? Not bad.

  1. John Hunter

    June 15, 2007 - 5:15 am

    Actual Google has solved the problem, I wrote about this last month: reducing computer waste. In fact Google has not only implemented the solution themselves they took the next step to have their solution adopted so that when we buy computers they eliminate the muda of wasted energy.
    I think the paper “High-efficiency power supplies for home computers and servers”
    Urs Hoelzle and Bill Weihl – Google Inc.
    September 2006 does a good job of explaining the issue. It doesn’t really explain why the psychology of management lead to makers of PCs not doing what Google did and engineering a better PC power system. I think a big part of it has to do with them not thinking of how to improve the value proposition for their customer but instead sub-optimizing the overall system based on past history.
    Technically, a big part of the reason the power supplies are so inefficient is they are designed to provide power at various voltages which was necessary a long time ago but is not any longer.

  2. Jon

    June 15, 2007 - 7:42 am

    I would say that Google hasn’t really solved the problem. The technical solution is not sufficient, as you pointed out, when it does not include a road map to adoption including changing the minds of leaders.
    If Google could spend some of their brain power on the problem of how to get people to adopt rational, technical solutions, that would mean their intel is not wasted on producing solutions that are not implemented.

  3. John Hunter

    June 15, 2007 - 11:00 am

    I may be confused, but I think that the servers Google runs have the solution in place (they are using power supplies that have adopted Google’s improved design). So inside Google they don’t have the waste.
    Google is now working on getting the computer manufacturers to adopt their solution so that everyone can benefit.
    I think it is true that the computers that
    Google employees use may often have the more wasteful power supplies. So improving that is good too but from Google’s power use I think the severs that we all access account for 95+% (probably 99+%) of their CPU power consumption (so they have solved much of it in their company) and are working on rest.
    And even more importantly they are working on getting it adopted so all of us can just buy our next computer and it will have the better power supply in it. But the Google paper is about Google’s effort to get the computer industry to adopt the better power supplies. My guess is that they will succeed. At the end of the paper they include an email address you can contact to be informed about progress on the effort to make the improved power supplies standard.

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