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Server Naps

March 31, 2009

Programming big computer servers to shut on and off in fractions of a second could save huge amounts of power.


Putting computer servers to sleep. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Computer data centers, which route digital traffic from the Internet, cell phones, and other devices, are consuming more and more electricity – almost eaqual to that of 10 million average households by 2011. University of Michigan computer scientist Thomas Wenisch and his colleagues have a solution: put these giant servers to sleep when they’re idle, just like a desktop computer. The catch?

THOMAS WENISCH (University of Michigan):
There’s often less than a second where the computer’s doing nothing, and that’s just too short a time to turn computers off using conventional means.

But his team found that a new approach called PowerNap, which actually puts servers to sleep for fractions of a second, can potentially cut their energy use by 75 percent. PowerNap requires replacing a server’s operating system and electrical supply, but Wenisch says that’s a matter of time and money, not technology. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.