Now, a computer system with energy efficient data processing!

A team from Goethe University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Frankfurt has used seemingly unconventional hardware and instead of server processors with high power, the scientists took processors of type Intel Atom, microprocessors originally developed for netbooks.

Their lower processing power compared to server systems was compensated by the usage of highly efficient algorithms. Instead of hard drives, which consume a lot of power for the mechanics, the team employed so-called Solid State Disks (SSD), which are clearly faster and, at the same time, more power-economical. And, thus the German team improved over the power efficiency of the former record holders from Stanford University by a factor of three to four.

The record pops the question if the increasing hunger for energy in information technology could be strongly reduced. "In the long run, many small, power-efficient and cooperating systems are going to replace the so far used, heavy weighted ones," said lead scientist Peter Sanders.

Starting point for their research project was one of the key problems in computer science, namely sorting of data. Computers connected via Internet generate constantly growing amounts of data. In order to enable analysis of the data, it has to be sorted according to a specific criterion first. The efficient sorting of data is thus of central interest for search engines and databases -- and therefore an important research topic in both theoretical and practical computer science.

In the three categories of the competition, the scientists had to sort data amounts of 10GB, 100GB and 1TB, respectively, consisting of datasets with 100 Byte each. Even in the largest category of 1 Terabyte, which corresponds to a stack of paper of 10km height, the new record holders only spent 0.2 kWh. This is about the energy needed to boil 2 litres of water, the scientists say.

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