Microsoft Finds New Ways to Slash PC Power Consumption

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by Jacqueline Emigh

Microsoft is trying out a new shade of green with Sleep Proxy, a new approach to desktop PC power management now in limited deployment on its own company network.

As described in a report by researchers from Microsoft and Columbia University, the use of the new Sleep Proxy software makes much more sense than either keeping PCs on around the clock or always allowing them to sleep all night.

“A number of studies have noted that most office machines are left on irrespective of user activity. At Microsoft Research, we find hundreds of desktop machines awake, day or night – a significant waste of both energy and money,” according to the report.

On the other hand, although keep machines idle can save on power, sleeping PCs are very limited in functionality. An idle PC can’t accept a patch rollout in the middle in the night, for instance, and it can’t be used as a remote desktop over the weekend.

Microsoft’s emerging Sleep Ptoxy technology uses an existing capability in Windows operating systems (OS) known as Wake-on-LAN (WoL) which is capable of waking up sleeping PCs.

Up to now, WoL hasn’t been integrated with Microsoft’s existing software. The new Sleep Proxy, however, provides software agent technology which is able to examine network traffic destined for an idle PC, decide whether the sleeping machine should be woken up, and then wake it up, if needed, by implementing WoL.

Microsoft has been running the Sleep Proxy software now for over six months on its own network among 50 active users.

“Indeed, this preliminary deployment has been so successful that our IT department has begun recommending our system to users,” the researchers contend.

Sleep Proxy, however, is still in the research stage, and the software isn’t commercially available.

Also in the report, the researchers point out that desktop PCs are still the “platform of choice” among businesses for many applications.

From the report:

“As businesses become more energy conscious, more desktops may be replaced by laptops. However, currently desktops comprise the majority of enterprise machines…, with hundreds of millions additional desktops being sold every year. Where users make heavy use of local resources (e.g., programming, engineering, finance), desktops continue to be the platform of choice. Hence, managing desktop power consumption is an area of both active research and commercial interest.”

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