The tickless kernel feature (CONFIG_NO_HZ) enables 'on-demand' timer interrupts: if there is no timer to be expired for say 1.5 seconds when the system goes idle then the system will stay totally idle for 1.5 seconds. This should bring cooler CPUs and power savings: on our (x86) testboxes we have measured the effective IRQ rate to go from HZ to 1-2 timer interrupts per second.
This feature is implemented by driving 'low res timer wheel' processing via special per-CPU high-res timers, which timers are reprogrammed to the next-low-res-timer-expires interval. This tickless-kernel design is SMP-safe in a natural way and has been developed on SMP systems from the beginning.
( Citing Thomas Gleixner http://kerneltrap.org/node/6750)