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Greentouch new technology improves energy efficiency of data communications networks

GreenTouch, a global consortium dedicated to improving the energy efficiency of data communications networks, has announced two new technology innovations, both significant milestones in network energy conservation.

The first of these new technologies developed by GreenTouch researchers is the Virtual Home Gateway, which moves power-hungry residential in-home networking equipment and functionalities to the cloud. The second is the Point-to-Point Optical Transceiver, a complete hardware redesign that can make use of adaptive powering algorithms. The new GreenTouch technologies are being demonstrated this week at the GreenTouch consortium’s members meeting in Melbourne, Australia.

Thierry Klein, chairman of the GreenTouch Technical Committee said: ‘The impact of such a single device is quite remarkable. For example, when applied to the in-home networking scenario, the new optical transceiver will reduce the overall power consumption of the entire metro access network by 27 percent; this translates to about 4 terawatt hours of electricity saved on an annual basis, equivalent in terms of annual greenhouse gas emissions to taking nearly 600,000 cars off the road.’

Thierry Van Landegem, chairman, GreenTouch said: ‘As we approach the final stage of our five-year mission, I am excited to report that the consortium is very much on track and to share more remarkable findings. We’re proud to unveil the Virtual Home Gateway and Point-to-Point Transceiver projects, which contribute significantly to the consortium’s overall progress toward achieving its goals. These efforts represent the contributions of teams around the world, one project being led by a team in Melbourne and the US, and the other by a team in France, reflecting the extraordinary, global nature of GreenTouch collaboration.’

The Point-to-Point Optical Transceiver project, led by a team of researchers from the Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) at the University of Melbourne and Bell Labs/Alcatel-Lucent, redesigns the point-to-point optical transceiver.

The resulting equipment—incorporating a new hardware design and a custom-built, optimised ASIC—Which GreenTouch reports will result in a 30-fold increase in energy efficiency compared to today’s state-of-the-art optical transceiver.  The new transceiver can be coupled to adaptive powering schemes for further energy efficiency gains.

GreenTouch is exploring its use for two applications:

  • A point-to-point, high-speed broadband network that will provide secure, low-energy, dedicated service to business
  • An energy-efficient, point-to-point network that would be used inside of homes to connect home electronics gear—such as Internet TV and wireless routers—to wired in-house networks.

The Virtual Home Gateway project, led by a team at the Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in France, replaces residential in-home gateways—devices used to access dedicated services such as data, voice and TV—with servers in the cloud. Hundreds of thousands of in-home boxes could be replaced by a smaller number of servers.

Klein said: ‘Today, most connected homes rely on in-home boxes. Unfortunately, this equipment is usually always on, 24/7, and consumes a lot of electrical power. By virtualising these devices we save energy and make the services easier to control for network operators. There are also benefits for consumers, who will be able to more easily order new services or make adjustments to their current offerings and experience greater service reliability.’

In addition to ‘virtualising’ gateways, GreenTouch developed a new, distributed architecture for the servers which allows for greater improvements to energy efficiencies. This architecture allows service providers to shut down some of the servers during slow times—thereby conserving power—and then only turning servers back on when CPU-intensive services such as deep-packet inspection or bandwidth-intensive activities such as HD streaming are required.

GreenTouch will continue its work on network architectures and technologies to further the consortium’s progress and issue reports through 2015, with its final progress report expected in June 2015.

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