Internet Energy Usage Outpaces Gains in Efficiency

Waking Times

Energy efficiency gains are failing to keep pace with the Internet’s rapid rate of expansion, meaning that global web use is consuming an increasing share energy, warns a new perspective published in the journal Science.

Noting that the world’s data centers already consume 270 terawatt hours and Internet traffic volume is doubling every three years, Diego Reforgiato Recupero of the University of Catania argues for prioritizing energy efficiency in the design of devices, networks, data centers, and software development.

“As the Internet evolves, it is apparent that energy efficiency needs to be addressed,” he writes.

Recupero highlights two approaches for improving efficiency: smart standby and dynamic frequency scaling or CPU throttling.

“The former will allow unused parts of a network device to be put into very low power states, where only very basic functionalities are performed. This method is key for reducing energy consumption because it will allow switching some portion of the network to a sleep mode in a smart and effective way.

Dynamic frequency scal- ing allows us to trade off the energy consumption and processing capacity of internal blocks while satisfying the current traffic load and quality of service constraints. This ensures that when the system is under partial load, parts of it can be throttled to decrease the power consumption without a reduction of overall performance.”

  • The Italian computer scientist says the next generation of network devices will be “smarter” and “greener”, synchronizing their energy-aware capabilities and better controlling high temperatures that drive up the need for energy intensive cooling systems. He adds that engineers are increasingly using green indicators in designing networks.

    Recupero concludes by noting that more efficient design pays dividends beyond environmental gains.

    “The fundamental problem of greening the Internet is to strike a fine balance between the demands of performance and the limitations of energy usage,” he writes. “New research initiatives in energy optimization have revealed several aspects of the Internet that can be streamlined. Addressing the issues of energy efficiency will allow us to draw deeper conclusions on how new network systems can be smarter and more effective.”

    CITATION: Diego Reforgiato Recupero. Toward a Green Internet. Science Mar 28, 2013. 10.1126/science.1235623

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