Microsoft's sleep proxy lowers PC energy use

Allowing your PC to sleep while staying connected

Microsoft researchers have slashed desktop energy use with a sleep proxy system that maintains a PC's network presence even when it is turned off or put into standby mode.

10 Microsoft research projects

Microsoft has deployed the sleep proxy system to more than 50 active users in the Building 99 research facility in Redmond, Wash., according to the Microsoft Research Web site and a paper that will be presented at the Usenix technical conference in Boston later this month.

"A number of studies have noted that most office machines are left on irrespective of user activity," Microsoft researchers write in a paper titled "Sleepless in Seattle no longer." "At Microsoft Research, we find hundreds of desktop machines awake, day or night – a significant waste of both energy and money. Indeed, potential savings can amount to millions of dollars per year for larger enterprises."

Sleep proxies allow machines to be turned off while keeping them connected to the network, waking the machines when a user or IT administrator attempts to access it remotely.

Microsoft's research group isn’t the first to work on a sleep proxy – or even the only one presenting sleep proxy research at Usenix – but Microsoft contends that most previous work has evaluated sleep proxies only in small testbeds or simulations.

"We are not aware of any paper detailing the deployment of any of these proxying solutions in an operational enterprise network on actual user machines," Microsoft said. "This is disconcerting: systems that work well on testbeds often encounter potentially serious challenges when deployed in operational networks."

Microsoft's sleep proxy system has been operational for most of the past year, with software deployed on users' primary workstations. So far, the system has allowed user machines to sleep more than 50% of the time, but Microsoft hopes to increase that number by minimizing "interference from IT management tasks."

Microsoft's Sleep Proxy system is based on two components: server-side software called SleepServer, and SleepNotifier, which runs on client machines.

"SleepNotifier alerts SleepServer just before the client goes to sleep, and SleepServer ensures that all incoming traffic meant for the client comes to the proxy instead," Microsoft writes in another article titled "Trying to cure PC insomnia." "The proxy server's role is to monitor traffic and respond accordingly. For some requests, it responds on behalf of the client so the client can continue sleeping, and others it ignores. Some traffic, such as a user access request, causes the SleepServer proxy to awaken the client and present the user with apparently seamless remote access."

Although Microsoft is using the system with Windows, it is designed to be agnostic to the operating system.

The SleepServer component is described by a separate group of researchers from the University of California, San Diego, who will also present a paper at Usenix.

The paper, titled "SleepServer: A Software-Only Approach for Reducing the Energy Consumption of PCs within Enterprise Environments," says energy savings from the system should range from 60% to 80%.

Desktops provide a bigger target for energy savings than laptops, because laptops consume less power when active and are more often put to sleep by users, Microsoft researchers said. In modern buildings, 50% to 80% of electricity used can be attributed to IT equipment, particularly desktops, the UC-San Diego researchers said.

Cloud computing may help reduce energy use in desktops and mobile clients, however, according to two other research papers that will be presented at Usenix.

One Usenix paper, "The Case for Energy-Oriented Partial Desktop Migration," looks at migrating idle desktop sessions to the cloud to reduce energy costs. A second paper, "Energy Efficiency of Mobile Clients in Cloud Computing," measures energy use of mobile handheld devices and discusses "implications for the design and engineering of energy efficient mobile cloud computing solutions."

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter:

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags MicrosoftsleepSleepserverproxy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon Brodkin

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?