The Stack Archive

Power sharing system promises 25% boost in efficiency for data centres

Tue 5 Jul 2016

ANU data centre savings

Australian scientists have developed a new processing power sharing system, which could lead to a huge boost in energy efficiency for large data centres.

The research team based at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra worked alongside Microsoft scientists to design a technique for computer operating systems which would improve efficiency in data centre environments by up to 25%. The system allows an OS to share its processing power, providing a significant efficiency bonus for servers managing search requests and user interactions.

Lead researcher Professor Steve Blackburn from ANU’s computer science department explained in the media release: ‘Computer servers spend a lot of time waiting around for search requests to come in. By sneaking in other processes while they are waiting, we can use the computers more efficiently.’

Blackburn added that the boost in efficiency was inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, the Elves and the Shoemaker. ‘It’s just like the elves that used the shoemaker’s tools at night,’ he said.

Using algorithms, informed by server and application performance analysis, the team can identify non-time critical workloads which are then assigned to an idle operating system. These processes are then programmed to give way to any immediate search requests if required. ‘We have analysed the operating system’s performance 100 times more closely than before, which is crucial, because much of the activity that occurs inside a computer happens at very high frequencies,’ added ANU PhD student Xi Yang.

Blackburn went on to explain that the new technique is extremely easy to implement on existing hardware, and claimed that in some applications the model had made a server nine times more efficient.

Tech giant Microsoft has collaborated closely on the project – the speed and efficiency of executing user requests being a large factor in the company’s success. A lag as tiny as one hundredth of a second could mean a considerable loss in revenue. Yang noted that currently companies have ‘no control of when users request a search’, so they tend to have large server capacity that is mostly untapped.


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