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Improving the Ecological Effect of Datacenter Networking


Datacenter networks are a critical component of computing infrastructure. With recent calls for reducing the carbon emissions of the globe in order to prevent global warming, it is necessary to examine datacenters and how they contribute to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. I propose how datacenter networks can reduce both the total operational and embodied energy information and communications technology outputs in order to lower impact on the environment.

Future datacenter networks based on optical circuit switches use less operational energy than traditional counterparts. In order to make these a reality, servers must interact with the network in fundamentally different ways. I examine the systemic needs of servers in three different optical circuit switched networks and develop several methods of enforcing precision transmission flow control in software. Using an in-depth study of the accuracy of networking software for microsecond precision flow control, I observe that networking software alone is only effective at rates up to 40 Gbps. This implies that hardware support is required to accurately transmit at the 400 Gbps rates needed in modern datacenter networking.

Datacenters are poised to aid lowering the embodied energy of smartphones as well. The embodied energy of smartphones are a highly significant contributor to total carbon emissions. Smartphones are increasingly discarded after shorter periods of time, which raises their impact on the environment further. To extend the lifetimes of smartphones and reduce their embodied energy, datacenters can run parts of a phone's browser application. To see how effective this would be in practice, I study how university students use smartphones on academic platforms. In particular, I analyze data from a university's learning management system and find that smartphones roughly four years past their manufacturing date become obsolete in academic settings. I discuss how using datacenter networks for a split-browser solution can reduce the embodied energy of smartphones in academic settings by providing increased device longevity.

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