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Carnegie Mellon researchers save electricity with low-power processors and flash memory
Date:10/14/2009

PITTSBURGHResearchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Intel Labs Pittsburgh (ILP) have combined low-power, embedded processors typically used in netbooks with flash memory to create a server architecture that is fast, but far more energy efficient for data-intensive applications than the systems now used by major Internet services.

An experimental computing cluster based on this so-called Fast Array of Wimpy Nodes (FAWN) architecture was able to handle 10 to 100 times as many queries for the same amount of energy as a conventional, disk-based cluster. The FAWN cluster had 21 nodes, each with a low-cost, low-power off-the-shelf processor and a four-gigabyte compact flash card. At peak utilization, the cluster operates on less energy than a 100-watt light bulb.

The research team, led by David Andersen, Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of computer science, and Michael Kaminsky, senior research scientist at ILP, received a best paper award for its report on FAWN at the Association for Computing Machinery's annual Symposium on Operating Systems Principles Oct. 12 in Big Sky, Mont.

A next-generation FAWN cluster is being built with nodes that include Intel's Atom processor, which is used in netbooks and other mobile or low-power applications.

Developing energy-efficient server architectures has become a priority for datacenters, where the cost of electricity now equals or surpasses the cost of the computing machines themselves over their typical service life. Datacenters being built today require their own electrical substations and future datacenters may require as much as 200 megawatts of power.

"FAWN systems can't replace all of the servers in a datacenter, but they work really well for key-value storage systems, which need to access relatively small bits of information quickly," Andersen said. Key-value storage systems are growing in both size and importance, he added, as ever larger social networks and shopping Web sites keep track
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Contact: Byron Spice
bspice@cs.cmu.edu
412-268-9068
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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