I came across an interesting project that University of Michigan is doing called PowerNap

Basically the goal of the project is to put servers to sleep quickly when they are idle and wake them up quickly when they are called for again.

Here are some interesting quotes from the article:

“The Environmental Protection Agency expects the energy consumption of the nation’s data centers to exceed 100 billion kWh by 2011, for an annual electricity cost of $7.4 billion. Those figures are about twice what they were in 2006, when data centers already drew more electricity than 5.8 million U.S. households.”

“For the typical industrial data center, the average utilization is 20 to 30 percent. The computers are spending about four-fifths of their time doing nothing,” Wenisch said. “And the way we build these computers today, they’re still using 60 percent of peak power even when they’re doing nothing.”

It’s a well recognized problem, I think. But I’ve yet to see an effective solution. I hope PowerNap will become one by itself. I think such technology can achieve its full potential by coordinating with not only operating systems but also applications such as Citrix infrastructure. For example, the applications can help making more intelligent decisions of where to route the traffic to increase the chance and duration that a server can be turned into a power saving mode. Today Citrix’s products drive a large share of DataCenter work load, I think Citrix can play an important role in addressing this important issue.

I led an experimental project called PowerSmart not too long ago. The basic idea is to funnel the load to a smaller set of servers so that the rest of the servers can be powered off during off peak hours. But the project was suspended due to lack of resources. The good news however is that the development team has picked up the concept and is working on something better. I will blog more once I get clearance to do so.

What I am curious about is how the bad economy is going to affect the investment on “Green IT technologies”. According to the articles, it sounds like saving energy in the data centers may still make sense as far as return on investment is concerned even in today’s economy. What do you think?

Of course, there are many variables in making investment decisions. I would appreciate it if you could elaborate in the comment section.

Here is another article I found titled “digital Diet – Computing industry gets serious about energy conservation” that offers additional data.

Ray (Ruiguo) Yang
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