Oxford powers up low-carbon computing research program

Researchers at Oxford University are aiming to develop software to make networked computers more energy efficient and thereby reduce carbon emissions. The software will 'have benefits for further and higher educational institutions across the UK', they claim.

Energy-saving technology has been available since the 1990s, including 'standby' and 'hibernate' modes that automatically switch off computers not in use, explained Dr David Wallom technical architect from the Oxford e-Research Centre: the problem is that many IT specialists (and end-users) are not using these features.

"Power-management capabilities are [now] limited to decisions on whether the system is being used, either locally or remotely," Wallom added. "Within a research organisation like Oxford University computers can often be used in non-traditional ways - making the basis on the decision to take a machine into the standby state much more complicated. The system we are developing will remove this barrier, allowing the user, their departmental IT officer, and the University, greater flexibility and control in running an energy-saving system."

When a computer is switched on, its power demand remains pretty much constant, "regardless of whether its user is surfing the net, word-processing, or at home in bed", added Daniel Curtis, researcher at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute. "We are developing a system that will mean that computers only need to be switched on when actually in use. We aim to develop a means for managing PC power which will inconvenience neither the end-user nor the staff manning the IT departments, while maintaining the international research competitiveness of the university."

The pilot scheme is funded by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), a government agency set up to support the innovative use of ICT in research and education institutions. The project will be launched on 19 March 2008 at a conference entitled 'Towards Low Carbon ICT' at Oxford University's Saïd Business School.

The first 'Beta candidate' release of the low-carbon computing toolbox will be available in June 2008 from http://projects.oucs.ox.ac.uk/lowcarbonict/

Image: Oxford University's research project could make networked computers more energy efficient

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