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MSU Distinguished Fulbright Chair to study green networking in Finland



By Melynda Harrison

Electronic communication might be paper-free, but given the amount of electricity that is used to send emails, videos and text messages around the world, it isn’t totally “green.” A Montana State University researcher aims to change that.

Brendan Mumey, associate professor of computer science was awarded a Fulbright Distinguished Chair award and MSU sabbatical to study green networking at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland, in fall 2011.
Fulbright Distinguished Chairs Program awards are among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program. Awardees are eminent scholars and have a significant publication and teaching record.

“This experience will be of great benefit to Brendan and to MSU,” said John Paxton, computer science department head. “He will forge new collaborative partnerships while working on the important problem of green networking.”

According to Mumey, green networking is a new field that has grown alongside the Internet. Since it is a new discipline, there hasn’t been much research into it. Green networking has the potential for significant practical impact in reducing global energy consumption. The Internet has become a major source of power consumption due to the fast growth of network users and new applications that inject a large volume of traffic into the Internet infrastructure.

“Green networking is supporting communications while looking for ways to save energy,” Mumey said. “It turns out that about 10% of worldwide electricity use goes to Internet communication.”

With the growth in data centers, streaming videos and other electronic communications, Mumey believes there is growing potential for large energy savings.

Mumey describes the problem by thinking of the network as roads on a map. There are many routes to get information from point A to point B. Each route has different energy costs associated with it depending on how circuitous or crowded it is. Green networking researchers want to find the route that uses the least amount of energy, but still provides efficient communication.

Mumey is interested in this line of research because it combines an interesting theoretical problem with practical applications.

“As a computer scientist, I am interested in this because it requires sophisticated algorithms to find efficient solutions,” Mumey said.

Mumey applied for this particular Fulbright award because there is a large research group at Aalto University working on these programs and Finland is at the forefront of communications research. In addition to conducting research, Mumey will teach a research seminar for graduate students and plans to give a guest lecture at another Finnish university. Research and graduate training at Aalto University are primarily conducted in English.

When he returns to Montana, Mumey will teach a green networking seminar course so MSU students can benefit from his experience. He will also be better positioned to pursue international grants and work on an exchange program between MSU and Aalto University.

“Brendan’s experience will give him new teaching and research ideas to bring back to MSU,” Paxton said. “In the end, we all benefit from this award.”

Melynda Harrison is with the MSU News Service. Photo courtesy of the MSU News Service.

Megan Paulson is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Outlaw Partners.

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