AVOB Takes PC Power-Saving to the Processor

Most of us know that PCs can waste a lot of power, and there are a host of technologies aimed at reducing that waste, from the networked enterprise to more active sleep states for consumer computers. But French startup AVOB says it’s taken the concept a step further with technology to ramp down processor speed and voltage while the computer is working — and it’s testing the tech out with the likes of Intel (s INTC), Microsoft (s MSFT) and Cisco (s CSCO) to ensure it doesn’t mess with PCs getting their work done.

AVOB (aka “Alternative Vision of Business”) formally launched in the U.S. on Monday, but it already has corporate customers including Airbus, Air France, Renault and the French post office, La Poste. CEO Pierre Duchesne says that AVOB can fine-tune processor speed and voltage to squeeze 20 percent more efficiency out of networked PCs, compared to similar technologies that merely tackle sleep and wake cycles, power saving settings and the like.

Chipmakers have been incorporating such power-saving features into their newest chipsets, and AVOB says its system has been certified to work with the latest, including Intel iSeries and AMD (s AMD) Hexacore. That kind of assurance will no doubt be critical for the startup as it seeks new customers, since few CIOs are likely to welcome untested technology into their computing environments to ramp processor voltage up and down.

That extra functionality to dial down speed and voltage will also be important to differentiate AVOB from its well-established competitors. Seattle-based startup Verdiem has gotten a lot of attention for its Surveyor energy management product for networked computers, and has linked more than 1 million PCs for customers including Cox Communications and the cities of Honolulu, Chicago and Seattle. Competitor 1E has been selling its PC management software for over a decade, with customers including AT&T (s T), Verizon Wireless (s VZ) and HSBC. NEC (s NEC), IBM (s IBM) and Fujitsu also offer services for managing PC energy use. Whether any of them are taking the next step into managing active processor power, as AVOB has been doing, remains to be seen.

And then there’s Cisco (s CSCO), whose EnergyWise offering intends to link networked PCs — along with Ethernet-powered devices and building HVAC, lighting, security and other power-using systems — to control power use. Cisco named Verdiem as its PC power management partner when it launched in January 2009, but Duchesne told me that AVOB’s technology has been deployed with Cisco’s EnergyWise in France and that the company is “making studies” with Cisco for potential deployments elsewhere.

As for markets, AVOB is primarily tackling the enterprise, where it promises to charge no up-front license fee. Instead, it starts by deploying and establishing a baseline of networked PC energy use within a month, and then bases ongoing licensing fees on how much energy — and power bill — savings it can deliver to the customer. As Duchesne told me, “I can say to a CIO, ‘Do you want to save money with us?’ It’s as if I arrived with a check.”

It will be interesting to see if competitors copy this model, which does require tracking of both initial and ongoing energy use — a function Verdiem’s Surveyor product also offers. Both Verdiem and AVOB have products for individual PC owners as well, and AVOB is launching a cloud-hosted service model for small to mid-size businesses as part of its move into the U.S. market, though that will be built on a more traditional licensing business model.

AVOB has remained almost unnoticed in U.S. tech press circles, though it has been well-covered in France. As for backing, the company was started with “friends and family” seed investment, as well as an undisclosed angel round from French “broadband maverick” Xavier Niel through his KIMA Venture Fund.

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