Does your computer talk in its sleep?

We almost tune it out these days–that quiet hum of a desktop computer in the cube next to us, or the one in the other room at home that you left downloading some files. We shouldn’t tune it out—because that hum is power being consumed. One study showed that 67% of desktop computers were left on when not being used—only 4% of which went to sleep.

Sleep mode allows a computer to stop consuming power without a complete shut down and restart. This mode is designed to save power when a computer is not being actively used—so why are so few computers making use of sleep?

Remote access is one reason—sleeping computers are not available for remote desktop connections without physical intervention, and administrators need the off-hours to make patches and changes to machines. Machines might also be left on for applications like file sharing or email that run un-attended, and require almost no processor resources to function. Although no business wants to pay higher energy costs, the efficiency gained by running these applications in off-hours outweighs the costs.

Scientists at Microsoft and University of California, San Diego may have found a solution. They have created a new state between sleep and awake that they call Somniloquy. Somniloquy allows devices to maintain a presence on the network, be available for remote connections, as well as run lightweight applications, all while consuming a little more power than a “sleeping” computer.

Somniloquy works by adding a secondary processor, right on the network card. This processor then runs application “stubs,” to allow web downloads, bit-torrent, and other small workloads to continue running, while consuming 11-24 times less power.

Assuming it makes it to market, this solution will appear in all of the major manufacturer’s desktop hardware. When companies adopt, they’ll realize great energy and cost savings without sacrificing the administrative ease of remote access or the need to run small background processes for extended periods of time.

View the 16-page research paper

About Danielle Williams

As a Category Marketing Lead for Softchoice, Danielle was responsible for designing and executing marketing campaigns which include valuable information about the current issues and challenges in the IT world.