The multinational initiative started by Alcatel Lucent's Bell Labs called GreenTouch is three years into its initial five-year remit and appears to be doing good work. It is trying to increase networking energy efficiency by a factor of 1,000 and it has come up with studies and technical developments that could make a difference.
Perhaps more importantly it is one of the first industry groups to put at its core the dynamic tension between shareholders' and consumers' desire for more consumption and the energy constraints imposed by global sustainability. For most other companies the tension between the desire to sell more stuff that will consume more power and global ecological constraints is the proverbial unacknowledged elephant in the room. But GreenTouch, while deserving of praise is missing a trick by not getting IC vendors to participate. After all the power consumption takes place mainly in the chips inside the equipment.
I checked back and notice that at launch in 2010 the R&D labs of Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Austin, Texas) were listed as participating in GreenTouch, but now they are not. Similarly, it was announced in April 2011 that Broadcom Corp. (Irvine, Calif.) joined the GreenTouch consortium but now they have left. Thierry Klein, chairman of the GreenTouch technical committee told me that Broadcom had found it had "other priorities."
Call me cynical if you like, but it is all too easy for companies to take the public relations benefit by promoting their signing up to such a green movement and then, without fanfare, leave. Net result company with all the benefits of a green reputation without the cost of earning it.
The fact is that GreenTouch is still well supported. It has a lot of universities on-board – who no-doubt hope it can be source of funding – and a few, but by no means all of the telecommunications and networking equipment vendors. Ericsson, Nokia-Siemens Networks, Cisco and Juniper Networks are conspicuous by their absence. Universities coming up with clever algorithms and alternative communications protocols is all well and good but it needs to be well connected to the equipment vendors' needs and also to the chip developers who may need to implement these algorithms.
I would encourage GreenTouch to turn to processor IP licensor ARM Holdings plc and its extensive ecosystem of chip and equipment companies as well as others. But ARM might be an easy-to-persuade recruit.
Since the announcement that Simon Segars will take over as CEO of ARM on July 1, I have listened to both he and Keith Clarke [no relation], vice president of embedded processors at ARM, provide a top-down energy sustainability analysis of a coming data explosion and the impact of the Internet of Things. It looks like ARM has had the consultants in, possibly McKinsey ecowarriors, to top senior management up with some big-picture, big business points of view.
ARM's charter, rewritten soon after Warren East took on the CEO's job at ARM as I remember, was the modest goal to own the digital architecture that is in everything. East's successor Simon Segars is re-emphasizing the need to wind down the power consumption to allow electronic box and IC consumption to continue growing. So clearly ARM is singing from the same hymn-sheet as GreenTouch, and they could bring a lot of their ecosystem with them. They might bring Freescale and Broadcom back and more besides into the GreenTouch fold.
Thierry Klein, I suggest you strike while the iron is hot and contact Segars before he gets inundated with CEO-type jobs and two or more long-haul flights a month, post July 1.
Peter – As a research consortium we welcome any and all companies to come join us in our efforts to find ways to improve the energy efficiency of ICT networks, further reduce the energy consumption of communication networks and help the environment while we’re doing it. We agree that it is important for chip vendors to be involved in GreenTouch and appreciate your call to action here. Having chip vendors actively participating in the large array of research projects underway within the consortium would allow us to expand our research on the ways new chip technologies will affect and/or help with energy efficiency and ultimately the forecasted reduction possibilities for 2020 and beyond. GreenTouch remains an open consortium and we appreciate the opportunity for further collaboration in the industry with leading experts and companies in general. Thank you Peter, for your support of that effort.
Chair, Technical Committee of GreenTouch
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.