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Memset, through their collaboration with Surrey University, have shown that it is possible to reduce power consumption faster than even Moore’s Law.

The research is an ongoing project examining the load levels and power consumption of Memset’s Miniserver VM host server estate which has been running for 32 months. The key findings have been that, contrary to accepted wisdom, CPU is generally under-utilised even after virtualisation and it is RAM and disk transactions which tend to be limiting.

Memset has been iteratively refining and fine-tuning the host hardware to optimise it for the actual load profile they are seeing from their clients. This has enabled Memset to reduce the average power consumption of their popular Miniserver VM virtual servers (1 x 0.7GHz Xeon core, 1GB RAM, 80GB RAID1 HDD) from 26 watts in mid-2009 to 4.7 watts by the end of 2011.

Moore's law is a good approximation for rate at which energy efficiency of computers improves. Even taking the more aggressive figure of a doubling of efficiency every 18 months* Moore's Law predicts those VMs should be using 6.9 Watts - 47% more than Memset's power usage. A typical modern dedicated server with four times that capacity would use at least 70 Watts which further highlights the merits of virtualisation and Memset's approach.

Kate Craig-Wood, managing director of Memset, said. "ICT has been highlighted by both the Global e-sustainability's SMART 2020 report and the World Wildlife Fund in their 'Saving the first billion tonnes' report as vital to the transition to a low-carbon society through approaches like dematerialisation and intelligent resource management. However, many people are concerned that we will be trading one carbon source for another."

"I hope that this research and the future projects I am personally leading at Memset in collaboration with Surrey University will help put those fears to rest. ICT really can deliver its promises of a greener society without itself becoming a major indirect source of greenhouse emissions."


*Moore's law technically refers to a doubling of CPU transistor density every 24 months, however when computers are viewed overall including other advances such as multi-core, higher clock speeds and storage density their performance per £pound or per watt doubles roughly every 18 months.