Energy-Proportional Computing and Climate Change

By Nick Nigro on October 14, 2009

The importance of doing nothing well will play a big role in the conservation of energy and the fight against climate change.

According to a 2007 study by the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, an energy-efficient computer server consumes 50 percent of its peak power when idle. The article pushed for energy-proportional computing, in other words, to consume more power as you compute more.

This may sound intuitive, but it is not how designers of many computers and more importantly, computer networks implement their systems today. The relevance to climate change becomes apparent when one considers that computers contribute the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as aviation according to a report published by the Climate Group, and overall percentage from computers will grow by 2020 if business as usual continues.Engineers will have to undertake both monotonous and revolutionary projects to arrive at energy-proportional computing.

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