Energy-Efficient Mesh Networks


by Tim Moran

A recent article on arstechnica.com, "Researchers craft algorithm to turn mesh networking green," discusses the energy cost of IT equipment as it pertains to wireless networks.

Using a paper from the Journal Of Lightwave Technology as source, author John Timmer looks at the so-called "last mile" connection that brings the network to the local business or residence. Writes Timmer: "After dismissing fiber-to-the-home as 'cost-prohibitive,' [the researchers] suggest that a wireless mesh is the best way to solve many of the last-mile problems. In an appropriately dense environment, a few fiber-fed access points, either 4G or WiFi, could allow the signals to be propagated out through the networking hardware of individual users."

The idea is to use the mesh concept and an associated routing algorithm to create a more energy-efficient network. (For more on mesh networks in a different context, see "Not Dust, But Still Smart.".) The article goes into a good deal of technical detail about how the concept works and the demo that the researchers created, and it is definitely worth the read if this is your cup of tea.

In the end, what's the future for mesh technology in the wireless world? Timmer writes: "It's a bit difficult to get overly excited about these specific results. There's no clear indication that mesh networking will end up being the method of choice for providing last-mile services, and the algorithm itself clearly needs a bit of work. What is interesting is the general approach; load balancing seems to have become a standard method of handing out distributed tasks, but it clearly doesn't work as well from an efficiency standpoint. It's possible that other compute tasks that are more intensive users of electricity could benefit from a similar analysis."