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Toward Energy-efficient Computing

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800th Anniversary of Cambridge Univ. talk/Note unusual time

As a result of both the increased average power consumed by a single system, and the rapid growth in the number of total computer systems deployed, energy consumption by computers and related technologies is growing at an exponential rate analogous to Moore’s Law. The use of energy has become a consequential factor in the design of contemporary computer systems.

This talk frames the energy problem in general, looking at its current implications in the computing space. I’ll introduce several of the basic technologies that have been introduced which may help us to manage power use on modern computing platforms, then describe some recent experience in their application as seen from my vantage point at Sun. The conclusion, is that while some of these mechanisms are enabling, they seem far from sufficient to realise optimal energy use in computing.

How should the energy problem be framed more specifically for computer system designers?

I will give a simple vision for energy-efficient computing, and describe a number of the elements that appear necessary if we are to solve it along those lines. Some likely avenues of research are suggested.

About the Author

David Brown is presently working on the Solaris operating system’s core power management facilities, with particular attention to Sun’s x64 hardware platforms. Earlier at Sun he led the Solaris ABI program: a campaign to develop and deliver a practical approach to binary compatibility for applications built on Solaris.

Before coming to Sun, Dave was a member of the research staff at Stanford University, where he worked with Andy Bechtolsheim on the prototype SUN Workstation; later was a founder of Silicon Graphics, where he developed early system and network software and designed a floating point accelerator; and subsequently established the Workstation Systems Engineering Group for DEC in Palo Alto along with Steve Bourne, where he built the team that developed the graphics architecture applied in DEC ’s MIPS workstations and the PixelStamp and PixelVision subsystems.

Dave’s technical background is computer systems (operating systems and networking), and architecture with some specific attention to the design of high-performance interactive graphics systems.

Dave received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cambridge University, for a dissertation which introduced the “Unified Memory Architecture” approach for the integration of high performance graphics subsystems in a general-purpose computing architecture. This idea is now widely applied, notably in the current Intel processor and memory system architecture.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Wednesday Seminars series.

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