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'Slow Internet,' the next green trend?

Letting network hardware relax can halve energy use at data centers, according to researchers.

The "slow food" movement came first, followed by "slow work" and even "slow medicine." Next, will people let the Internet relax a little for the sake of ecological sustainability?

Researchers are finding that data centers can make relatively simple power consumption tweaks that mimic those long available for personal computers, as New Scientist reports.

Energy-saving settings take several clicks to set up on Windows or Mac personal computers. But at data centers, where power consumption counts on a grander scale, equipment is often left on even when dormant.

Data centers' emissions of global warming gases exceed those of Argentina and the Netherlands combined, according to an April study by McKinsey & Co. and the Uptime Institute.

However, research from labs at Intel and the University of California at Berkeley has found that network hardware could consume up to 80 percent less energy if allowed to sleep, or if set up for data to travel in clusters rather than in an even flow. Changes to delay the flow of data by milliseconds, not enough for Web surfers to notice, reportedly cut energy use in half.

And in tests with Windows Live Messenger chatting software, Microsoft cut energy use by one-third by clustering active network connections rather than spreading them evenly across servers, noted New Scientist.