Saving energy through IT in an enterprise environment almost always comes at the expense of trading off something else. It could be security by not keeping machines on for patching, it could be accessibility by not keeping machines on for remote access, it could be inconvenience by having to wait for your computer to boot up and complete all of its start up tasks, or it could be any number of other things. That’s why the Sleep Proxy system that Microsoft Research has been testing through its Greening Corporate Networks with Sleep Proxy project is so interesting. They’ve taken the approach to make the process meet all of these needs and be as seamless as possible.
In fact, Microsoft Research lists these objectives for the project:
- The system had to save as much power as possible.
- The system had to awaken machines with minimal disruption to users.
- The system had to be easy to deploy and maintain, with minimal IT support and no additional hardware for client machines.
With an estimated savings of $25 – $75 per PC each year using hibernation, turning off machines is a big target for companies hoping to reduce their energy bills and help their environmental plans. The Sleep Proxy approach wants to allow computers to go to sleep without the trade-offs. From their own testing within a building on Microsoft’s campus, users have noticed a 8-9 second delay for initial remote access but it has been cited as an acceptable delay.
The computer is woken up when traffic is destined for that machine such as remote desktop or a request to stream a file. A server sitting behind the router listens for traffic destined for computer and will then send a wake-up signal to the Sleep Notifier client on the computer. This has also been tied into the card swipe as a person enters the building, a mobile app for smartphones, and a manual wake-up through a website.
The results were a bit surprising but left the future open for an environment optimized for sleep proxy that would truly take advantage of the features.
Although the Sleep Proxy system enabled most clients’ machines to sleep more than 50 percent of the time, the average power savings was only 20 percent. It turned out that while user requests did awaken machines, it was the IT department that proved responsible for the majority of machine requests.
You should check out the video produced by Microsoft’s Channel 9 for a demonstration.
You can read more about the project at these pages: