Twenty million computer servers around the world are poised to deliver information, bring web pages to fingertips and obediently following program commands. Of those, a whopping 84 percent sit idle at any given time, wasting grand amounts of energy and needlessly giving off tons of extra carbon dioxide emissions. Its analagous to leaving you car idling in driveway 24/7 until you had to go somewhere. The problem is that it's difficult to turn off — and then back turn on — the servers on an individual basis. But researchers in Portual have created an automated software program to do just that. It shuts down idle computers when they're not being used and then brings them back up when needed.
The software, called SPIRIT is free and available for download here. Used on just 200 computers alone at the University of Lisbon last year, the program saved the equivalent of five tons of CO2. With 1 percent of all CO2 emissions on Earth attributed to computer servers, the implications of using SPIRIT or a similar program in any kind of widespread way is astounding. And moreover, the computers in the Lisbon trial were a few times more productive than average computers in a server are estimated to be — they typically run 60 percent of the time compared to the 16 percent global rate. That implies that running the program elsewhere would have an even greater effect, because more computers would be free to turn off.
Though it's easy to get online, SPIRIT is not quite for the lay person; it “only runs on the mother node,” according to its developers. But if systems administrators around the globe took note and utilized the program — or at least got inspired to take similar energy saving steps with their own servers — we could, altogether, make our computing more green.
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