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Microsoft Research Supports Exploration Into Energy-Efficient Computing


Company’s environmental research efforts deepen with new “power aware” program.

REDMOND, Wash. — April 2008 — As part of its Sustainable Computing Program, Microsoft Corp. today announced it will support four academic research projects focused on energy efficiency in computing in the areas of datacenter power efficiency, power management and the creation of parallel computing architecture with decreased power demands.

Through this program, Microsoft Research is stimulating research across a broad range of areas with the potential to significantly improve energy efficiency. And considering that a single 100-watt incandescent light bulb left on around the clock for a year costs more than $80 to power and releases 1,350 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere — roughly the same amount of power that an idle PC uses in that same timeframe — finding ways to lessen humankind’s impact on the environment is critical.

“We want to open new avenues of research and raise the awareness of power as a critical resource that needs to be managed,” said Sailesh Chutani, senior director of Microsoft External Research. “Through this program, we are encouraging novel thinking about how to reduce that power consumption and how to make technology more environmentally friendly into the future.”

The Sustainable Computing Program explores two main areas of research that can have a major impact. The first is the principle of “pay for play,” which is the idea that the power consumed by a computing device should be proportional to the demand placed upon it, lowering the amount of energy consumed at low load and idle. Secondly, energy efficiency, even at peak loads, is equally important in reducing the overall consumption of electricity and should be managed as a first-class resource. The program encourages researchers to use novel approaches in hardware design, software, networking, benchmarking, analysis, virtualization and any other avenue that might provide improvements in the field.

Under the program, a total of $500,000 will be awarded among the four winners. A summary of the winners and descriptions of their projects follows:
• “Control-Theoretic Power and Performance Management for Green Data Centers”; University of Tennessee; aimed at developing frameworks for integrating power and performance improvements in virtualized datacenters
• “Building a Building-scale Power Analysis Infrastructure”; Stanford University; for the design and deployment of a dense sensor network for power analysis, producing data for future research on power-aware computing
• “A Synergistic Approach to Adaptive Power Management”; Harvard University; for the development of a dynamic runtime environment that ensures that power consumption is proportional to the computational demands made on the system
• “Simulating Low Power x86 Architectures with Sooner, a Phoenix-based Simulation Framework”; University of Oklahoma; for the development of a simulation framework that supports the study of low-power microarchitectures for innovative multicore systems

Microsoft Research is committed to delivering breakthrough innovations in research in the areas of energy efficiency and conservation, weather study and prediction, air pollution and quality, climate change, and hydrology. Other efforts range from sensor networks to assist scientists in understanding global ecological issues by tracking animals, to Web-enabled sensors that could be used in businesses and homes to monitor energy consumption. For example, research with the Berkeley Water Center, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Marine Fisheries Service will use these technologies to help form a “digital” picture of watershed health.

In February, Microsoft Research Cambridge announced new technology to help understand sensitive species’ responses to changing environments, in an effort to enhance conservation strategies. In March, at the company’s annual TechFest event, several new environmentally friendly projects were on display, including a new server-provisioning strategy to reduce the power consumed by large networks and a Web service designed to replace batteries used in smoke detectors and other household devices.

“We applaud the efforts of these academic researchers to develop new, innovative technologies to reduce energy usage and lessen the impact on the environment,” said Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft. “Microsoft believes in the potential of software to help create a more sustainable environment, and the Sustainable Computing Program is just one example of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to help businesses and consumers drive change through energy efficiency.”

Microsoft Research also has several projects aimed at providing technology expertise and tools to scientists in an effort to improve how data is accessed and used. Such projects include studying how the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads to changes in Earth’s climate, and understanding the impact of increased population and industry on rivers and balancing this with the need to conserve wildlife and protect ecosystems. More information can be found at


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