Power Management Strategies¶
© 2017 Intel Corporation
Rafael J. Wysocki <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Linux kernel supports two major high-level power management strategies.
One of them is based on using global low-power states of the whole system in
which user space code cannot be executed and the overall system activity is
significantly reduced, referred to as sleep states. The
kernel puts the system into one of these states when requested by user space
and the system stays in it until a special signal is received from one of
designated devices, triggering a transition to the
working state in which
user space code can run. Because sleep states are global and the whole system
is affected by the state changes, this strategy is referred to as the
system-wide power management.
The other strategy, referred to as the working-state power management, is based on adjusting the power states of individual hardware
components of the system, as needed, in the working state. In consequence, if
this strategy is in use, the working state of the system usually does not
correspond to any particular physical configuration of it, but can be treated as
a metastate covering a range of different power states of the system in which
the individual components of it can be either
active (in use) or
inactive (idle). If they are active, they have to be in power states
allowing them to process data and to be accessed by software. In turn, if they
are inactive, ideally, they should be in low-power states in which they may not
If all of the system components are active, the system as a whole is regarded as “runtime active” and that situation typically corresponds to the maximum power draw (or maximum energy usage) of it. If all of them are inactive, the system as a whole is regarded as “runtime idle” which may be very close to a sleep state from the physical system configuration and power draw perspective, but then it takes much less time and effort to start executing user space code than for the same system in a sleep state. However, transitions from sleep states back to the working state can only be started by a limited set of devices, so typically the system can spend much more time in a sleep state than it can be runtime idle in one go. For this reason, systems usually use less energy in sleep states than when they are runtime idle most of the time.
Moreover, the two power management strategies address different usage scenarios. Namely, if the user indicates that the system will not be in use going forward, for example by closing its lid (if the system is a laptop), it probably should go into a sleep state at that point. On the other hand, if the user simply goes away from the laptop keyboard, it probably should stay in the working state and use the working-state power management in case it becomes idle, because the user may come back to it at any time and then may want the system to be immediately accessible.