# Do multi-core processors reduce power consumption?

I have been reading some tutorials about power consumption on parallelized system. I have been following this tutorial.

Tim Mattson (Intel): Introduction to OpenMP: 02 part 1 Module 1, YouTube

At about 3:50 min of this tutorial, the mentor mentions that.

lets say if I have a processor that operates at frequency f.

The output power is

$$CV^2f$$

where V is the voltage, and C is the capacitance.

If we have the two processors that operate on the frequency f/2, and they are connected in parallel. Then total output power will be P1 + P2. And for each of the processor, voltage will be V (they are in parallel). And the Capacitance will be 2C (C1+C2) for parallel.

So total power will again be

$$P = P1 + P2 = 2( CV^2 f/2)$$

which will again be equal to

$$CV^2f.$$

But the mentor mentions that the power consumption will be decreased to 40%.

Can anybody explain? Do multi-core processors reduce the power consumption by such a high value?

• Before everything, not every process can be paralleled
– user76844
Apr 15, 2017 at 7:06
• Ask him and post the answer, I am interested too. Apr 15, 2017 at 7:23
• On that parallel configuration voltage is 0.6V, frequency is 0.5f, capacitance is 2.2C. Power is decreased to 40% not by 40%. Apr 15, 2017 at 8:18

According to the video starting at 5:05 it's not, as you write

$$P = P1 + P2 = 2 ( C V^2 f/2 )$$

but

$$P_{reduced} = 2.2 C ⋅ (0.6 V)^2 ⋅ f/2$$

$$= 2.2C ⋅ 0.36 V^2 ⋅ f/2$$

$$= (2.2 ⋅ 0.36 ⋅ 0.5) CV^2f$$

$$= 0.396CV^2f.$$

The drastic power decrease to 40 % is caused by the decrease of the voltage to 60 % where V appears at V² in the power formula derived in the video before:

$$P = C V^2 f .$$

Note: The dark yellow lines in the image shown in the video represent data flow, not (parallel wired) power supply.

Tim Mattson says at 5:14:

[...] frequency scales with voltage, but you know [leakage...], so let's say the voltage goes not half, lets say it goes to .6.

Dynamic frequency scaling (also known as CPU throttling) is a technique in computer architecture whereby the frequency of a microprocessor can be automatically adjusted "on the fly", either to conserve power or to reduce the amount of heat generated by the chip.

...

Dynamic voltage scaling is another power conservation technique that is often used in conjunction with frequency scaling, as the frequency that a chip may run at is related to the operating voltage.

[Last emphasis by me.]

Dynamic voltage scaling is a power management technique in computer architecture, where the voltage used in a component is increased or decreased, depending upon circumstances.

...

Undervolting is done in order to conserve power, [...]

• Ya, but how does the voltage becomes 0.6V, it should be V right? the voltage is same in parallel. Apr 15, 2017 at 8:56
• @Dharma The dark yellow lines in the image shown in the video represent data flow, not power supply. He says: "Frequency scales with voltage, but you know [leakage...], so let's say the voltage goes not half, lets say it goes to .6". Apr 15, 2017 at 11:57
• One lousy upvote for an answer that involves: • a link to the exact video frame • a bunch of well formatted equations • an explanation • a note • a citation • a comment with real bullets? Both Hawkings and Trump are right: "each equation I include[...] would halve the sales", "So sad!". Disclaimer: Scroll down the About Me a bit. :) Apr 15, 2017 at 13:38
• have an upvote ;) Apr 15, 2017 at 13:42
• @Christian T.HANKS a lot! Apr 15, 2017 at 13:48

Finally I got the answer from the mentor himself. I want to thank him for his response.

I am really busy right now and don’t have the time to cover this in as much detail as I’d like. Sorry about that.

But it’s quite simple if you step back and think about it. IF what I care about is latency, then nothing but a high frequency works. But if what I care about is throughput, then if I cut the frequency in half but double the cores, I keep the same throughput. In other words, two cores that kick out a result every second gives me two results per second. That matches a single core that kicks out two results per second. The throughput is the same in both cases.

So what happens to the power? Well, two cores running at half the frequency gives me each at F/2. I have to add more wires to deal with the two cores and the cores themselves increase the number of transistors I pass through. So the capacitance more than doubles. Let’s say by a factor of 2.2. In an ideal circuit that frequency is closely related to the voltage. Let’s be conservative and say that if I cut the frequency in half my voltage goes down by 60% (instead of the ideal 50%).

In other words, I am making guesses as to the changes in F, V and C but I’m making my guesses pessimistically.

Plug in the numbers to the power equation

$$\ P1 = C * V*V*F \$$   ← The power when running on one fast core $$\ P2 = 2.2 C * (0.6*V)*(0.6*V)*(F/2) = 0.396*C*V*V*F = \$$ $$\ 0.396*P1 \$$   ← the power on a dual core at half speed

So by going to two cores running at half the frequency, I can save 40% power for the same throughput. If you care only about throughput, adding cores and reducing frequency accordingly saves power. Since we can keep cramming transistors into a processor (Moore’s law has slowed … but it’s not dead) but the power delivered to a socket is fixed, the industry has no choice but to add cores. Hence why all programmers need to write parallel code.

And This link explains the relation between voltage and frequency:

How does power consumption vary with the processor frequency in a typical computer?

Hope it helps everyone reading this.

• SE guidelines recommend that you mark your own answer as accepted so future users can identify this question as properly answered. Thank you. Apr 15, 2017 at 19:47
• This answer doesn't say substantially more (apart from the link to physics.stackexchange) than Tim says in the video already, respectively what is said in comments and other answers here. Apr 15, 2017 at 19:57
• @GeroldBroser: ya, but this link to physics.stackexchange solves our confusion of frequency and voltage. Apr 16, 2017 at 3:43