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Energy Efficiency: A New Concern For Application Software Developers

By Gustavo Pinto, Fernando Castor

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 60 No. 12, Pages 68-75

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The prevalence and ubiquity of mobile computing platforms, such as smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and smart glasses, have changed the way people use and interact with software. In particular, these platforms share a common yet challenging requirement: they are battery-driven. As users interact with them, they tend to be less available, since even simple, well-optimized operations (for example, texting a friend) consume energy. At the same time, wasteful, poorly optimized software can deplete a device's battery much faster than necessary. Heavy resource usage has been shown to be a reason leading to poor app reviews in online app stores.22

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This concern, however, pertains not only to mobile platforms. Indeed, big players in the software industry are also reaching the same conclusion, as stated in one of the very few energy-efficient software development guides: "Even small inefficiencies in apps add up across the system, significantly affecting battery life, performance, responsiveness, and temperature."a Corporations that maintain datacenters struggle with soaring energy costs. These costs can be attributed in part to overprovisioning with servers constantly operating under their maximum capacity (for example, U.S. datacenters are wasting huge amount of energy15), and to the developers of the apps running on these datacenters generally not taking energy into consideration.36


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