Static Power Management Specification

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Embedded platforms typically offer one or more low-power system states in which power consumption is lowered through such means as stopping clocks and/or powering off some or all system components. CE products may take advantage of these states to save power during periods of inactivity by entering these states. This is particularly important crucial to CE products powered by batteries.

Generic Linux contains some support for these topics. However, the community emphasis is currently on certain features, primarily hibernate-to-disk, for laptop/notebook computers based on desktop-compatible processors (and powered by batteries much larger than are used in many CE products, such that aggressive power savings may not be as critical). Basic platform suspend/resume support as defined here is not a priority at present, and neither is support for embedded platforms. One of the largest efforts is for hardware based on the ACPI standard, which is not implemented on most embedded platforms.

This specification addresses the potential lack of static power management features on a platform used for CE products by requiring that a CELF-conforming Linux for that platform support its basic system suspend/resume capabilities. This specification also requires a minimal set of functionality closely associated with static power management. The basic suspend/resume capabilities outlined here may be extended by future CELF specifications that cover additional features useful for CE products.


This specification generally covers the basic functionality needed in an embedded linux system to save power by suspending and resuming operation of the system, utilizing suspend states implemented by the platform. The ability to suspend and resume systems is often referred to as "static power management" in the CELF Power Management Working Group.

System suspend is usually a relatively lengthy procedure, undertaken when an extended period of product inactivity is expected. This procedure can thus be distinguished from the power state changes controlled by more dynamic mechanisms, such as the IBM-MontaVista Dynamic Power Management subsystem (DPM), which may be executed more frequently during very brief idle periods, and are covered in separate CELF power management specifications. The system power state modifications made by dynamic power management schemes during brief idle periods typically result in less power savings than do the system suspend states covered in this specification. Furthermore, the dynamic power management state modifications normally have lower entry and exit latencies than do system suspend states, and require few or no interactions with device drivers. A system suspend, on the other hand, may take a noticeable amount of time to suspend and resume, and in many cases requires interactions with device drivers to save state and/or to enter and exit device suspend states.

A related topic not explicitly covered in this specification is "hibernate-to-disk", where system state is saved to a stable storage device (such as a hard disk) during a system suspend and restored from storage at system resume. The state saved usually includes most or all of RAM. This type of system suspend/resume is commonly implemented for laptop/notebook computers. Because the more specialized nature of hibernate-to-disk (which is typically a software feature not tied to the specifics of the base platform or devices), as well as the fact that this functionality is only appropriate for certain hardware and product configurations with large and fast storage devices available for saving state, hibernate-to-disk is not covered in this specification. This topic may be covered in future CELF power management specifications.

Platforms vary considerably in the kinds of support provided for static power management, and any attempt to standardize these technologies for a wide variety of platforms will necessarily be subject to a number of grey areas. The intent of this specification is to ensure a developer that, by choosing a CELF-conforming kernel source base for a particular platform, a number of commonly useful mechanisms and interfaces are available to take advantage of basic static power management features of that platform. In many cases this basic support will need to be augmented to obtain the exact behaviors desired for a particular product.


The following terms are used in this portion of the specification:

Active state 
A system or device that is not in a suspend state is said to be in an "active state".

SDRAM self-refresh mode::: A platform capability that typically saves additional power during times in which no SDRAM access may occur.
System suspend 
The process of placing the system into a system suspend state. This may be triggered, for example, in response to the consumer pressing a "standby" button on the product. This process generally also performs a device suspend sequence for most or all devices.

System suspend state 
A reduced-power state supported by the platform. Modern embedded platforms often offer a variety of modifiable parameters and execution modes related to power consumption; this specification primarily targets those system suspend states used to dramatically reduce power consumption for extended periods of time (further clarification appears in the discussion below).

System resume 
The process of restoring the state of the system to approximate pre-suspend conditions when resuming operation after a previous system suspend. System resume may be triggered, for example, when the consumer presses a "wakeup" button or when the product is automatically awoken by an alarm or external event (such as incoming call on a phone). This process generally also performs a device resume sequence for most or all devices.

Wakeup method 
A platform mechanism for exiting a system suspend state. Wakeup may be triggered by such means as pressing a button, I/O activity (such as sending characters to a serial console device), or asserting an interrupt.

System Suspend/Resume Discussion

System suspend may be triggered for such reasons as:

  • the consumer presses a "standby" button on the product
  • the product automatically suspends after the product has not been in use for a certain period of time
  • an application or kernel driver suspends the system due to such conditions as a low battery strength indication or temperature threshold exceeded

The documentation for the particular platform may refer to its system suspend states using names such as "standby", "sleep", or "suspend" states or modes. The precise characteristics of system suspend will vary by platform and by the particular system suspend state. A system suspend state might entail some or all of the following actions:

  • stopping or slowing various clocks
  • removing power from some or all devices, or placing devices into a low-power state
  • placing SDRAM into self-refresh mode
  • lowering core operating voltage and other platform power parameters
  • halting CPU execution

This specification places no requirements upon the exact behavior of system or device suspend states, or upon the wakeup methods that resume normal system operation. The intent is to ensure that a CELF-conforming Linux supports the basic system and device suspend/resume features offered by the platform to a minimal degree.

This specification does require that a system suspend first call drivers for devices in an active state, in order to prepare for the system suspend. Depending on the platform and system suspend state characteristics, such preparation may be useful to further lower system power consumption by placing all appropriate devices into a suspend state, and/or may be necessary to save device state such that device operation can be later resumed during system resume. If the platform will remove power from the device during the system suspend state then first placing the device into a low-power state is, of course, not necessary, but it is commonly the case that device state will need to be saved in order to reconfigure the device when later re-powered.

If multiple system suspend states are implemented by the platform and supported by Linux, then a CE application may choose among the suspend states based on product-specific criteria such as whether a particular suspend state is compatible with proper functioning of required I/O devices during the suspend, the latency involved when entering and exiting the state, and so forth.


  1. If the platform supports at least one system-suspend state and at least one method to wake up from the system-suspend state, a configuration option for the Linux kernel SHALL be provided that controls whether the kernel has the ability to enter and wake up from at least one system suspend state.
  2. If the platform supports more than one system suspend state, the ability to enter and wake up from all platform-supported system-suspend states SHOULD be implemented.
  3. Both a kernel programmatic interface and a userspace interface to initiate system suspend SHOULD be provided.
  4. If the platform supports SDRAM self-refresh mode and supports at least one system-suspend state that leaves SDRAM powered, the Linux kernel system-suspend code SHOULD have the ability to place SDRAM in self-refresh state.
  5. The kernel SHOULD provide interfaces for delivering power management events, including power button, smart battery, and temperature sensor events, to user space.
  6. A configuration option for the kernel SHOULD be provided that controls whether the kernel supports a hibernation technique by which the system preserves state on disk or flash memory during suspend state and restores the state from disk or flash memory upon resume.

Specific interfaces to perform the above are not required by this specification; see Non-Normative Notes for discussion.

Non-normative notes

Among the choices for system suspend/resume interfaces are:

  • The Linux 2.5/2.6 PM subsystem implements a kernel API for system suspend and resume, with limited support for choosing a specific system suspend state.
  • The Linux 2.5/2.6 sysfs filesystem exports interfaces that applications may use to suspend the system; these interfaces call the PM subsystem kernel API.
  • The /proc/sys/pm interface for system suspend/resume. Note that these interfaces are generally being replaced with the PM subsystem in future Linux versions.
  • The Dynamic Power Management subsystem (DPM) offers an interface for system suspend that may be convenient to use in systems that employ DPM for other power management tasks.
    • Hardware Platform Dependencies
      • The ability to support a special register used by boot-loader to detect whether the type of booting is cold boot or system resume.
      • Usually, platform is designed to support power supply gating which is to disconnect power from a part of PCB. The power supply gating can eliminate both leakage current and dynamic current while clock gating can eliminate dynamic current only. PCB has multiple power plane whose power can be gated independently.
      • Boot-loader need to detect whether booting is cold boot or system resume.
      • There are four types of power management events typically; button event, battery event, thermal event, and timer events. Those events are useful for predictable power control and prevent a system from being overheated.

A version of the Linux 2.5/2.6 technology described above has been backported to Linux 2.4 for use in CELF-conforming systems based on the 2.4 Linux kernel.