Smart Servers Could Make Eco-Friendly Internet
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Most people probably don't give the power consumption of their Internet routers a second thought. But the Internet as a whole is a colossal energy hog, scientists say.
In a Perspectives article written for the journal Science, Diego Reforgiato Recupero, an electrical engineer at the University of Catania, Italy, argues that telecom companies in Italy alone used 2 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2006, or about 1 percent of the country's entire energy consumption. (That is also enough to power about 200,000 U.S. homes.) The Internet's energy use is quickly increasing: the energy demanded by Telecom Italia increased 12 percent from 2004 to 2006.
Recupero said that his experience with computer networking combined with the realization that Internettraffic doubles every three years led him to think about improving the process. "The protocols that run these networks are 20 years old. The TCP/IP protocol is still the same as when they created it," he said.
A more efficient method, Recupero says, would be for the routers and serverfarms that make up the Internet to go into standby or throttle their CPUs when not in use. This would lower power consumption without a corresponding decrease in performance.
If such steps were taken in Italy, "with no extra work, Telecom Italia could consume, like, point-three percent," Recupero said.
Applying software to intelligently put servers to sleep could reduce their energy footprint by up to 30 percent, he said. And adding hardware to even better control the devices' switching could boost the energy savings to 70 percent.
Recupero is also working on a greener router for consumer use called Green Home Gateway. "In Italy, in one year, a person would save something like 20 euros. It's not that much, but if we think there are billions of such routers, then we can save a lot of energy and a lot of money."
The opinion piece was published in the March 28 edition of the journal Science.