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Gupta, Shenoy, Sitaraman Win Best Paper Award for Research on Sustainable Distributed Networks

Vani Gupta

Vani Gupta, a doctoral student in the UMass Amherst College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS), and her advisors, Professors Ramesh Sitaraman and Prashant Shenoy, won the Best Paper award at the ACM e-Energy 2019 conference in Phoenix, AZ for “Combining Renewable Solar and Open Air Cooling for Greening Internet-Scale Distributed Networks.” ACM e-Energy is the premier research conference on computational methods for future energy systems.

Their paper explores a novel blend of techniques that promises to reduce the energy consumption of distributed networks that provide much of the content, applications and services that we access on the internet today. For their analysis, they used data from Akamai’s content delivery network (CDN), which consists of a quarter-million servers located in over a thousand data centers around the globe.

Combining extensive energy consumption data from the CDN with solar and weather data matching the locations of the CDN’s data centers, Gupta’s research shows that combining solar energy with open-air cooling (an approach that uses naturally available air to cool equipment) has the potential to reduce the non-renewable, or brown energy consumption of internet-scale distributed networks by 73% to 89%.

A key to their approach is to combine two major renewable sources of energy—solar energy and open-air cooling—that often complement each other. While solar energy is plentiful on warm and sunny days, open-air cooling is abundant on cold and dark nights. Another necessary ingredient in their approach is the use of batteries that can store renewable energy for future use.  

Further, a CDN has data centers working in concert at locations across a range of time zones, latitudes and local climates. This allows for increasing energy consumption at data center locations where renewables are plentiful by directing more users to servers at those locations, while decreasing the energy consumption and server usage at other locations where renewables are scarce.

“Internet-scale distributed networks consume a significant fraction of the world’s energy,” explains Gupta. “Reducing the brown energy consumption of these networks—by dynamically routing users to data centers with a surplus of renewable energy—makes sense and should have a positive impact on the environment.”

Vani Gupta is a doctoral candidate at CICS whose work is affiliated with the Laboratory of Advanced Systems Software and the Laboratory for Internet-Scale Distributed Systems. Her research currently focuses on developing energy-aware algorithms to make large-scale systems like clouds and content delivery networks more sustainable. 

Professor Ramesh Sitaraman, director of the Laboratory for Internet-Scale Distributed Systems, is best known for his role in pioneering CDNs that currently deliver much of the world’s web content, streaming videos, and online applications. As a principal architect, he helped create the world’s first major CDN, the Akamai network.

Professor Prashant Shenoy is associate dean of CICS and director of the Laboratory for Advanced Systems Software, which focuses on building systems and understanding them through modeling, analysis, and experimentation.