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CACM Reports: Managing Computer Systems Architecture for Power Efficiency

April Issue Reports on Clarifying Cloud Computing, Robotic Technology for Cars, Defending Against Malware

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK, NY, March 29, 2010 – In the April Communications of the ACM (CACM), Parthasarathy Ranganathan of Hewlett-Packard Labs catalogues the many inefficiencies that stem from the way system architects inherently address the complex trade-offs in the system-design process.  Noting that poor power management can negatively affect cost, functionality, and reliability as well as environmental and national security concerns, he identifies new “recipes” to help optimize energy consumption and avoid wasting precious resources for a given task.  Also in this issue, a team of renowned information technology researchers, funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation, clears the confusion from the true potential and obstacles posed by cloud computing, which they claim has the potential to transform a large part of the IT industry. 

            Communications, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format

            Michael Cusumano of the MIT Sloan School of Management and School of Engineering describes cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) as new platforms for enterprise and personal computing, competing with traditional desktop or handheld computers that run applications directly on the devices.   However, he contends, they will rise to the level of an industry platform only when firms open their technology to other industry players.  He cites as an example Amazon, the most popular general-purpose cloud platform by the end of 2008, because it has a rich infrastructure to support online retailing operations and has made these services available to cloud users—data storage, computing resources, messaging, content management, and billing.  

            An article by Sebastian Thrun of Stanford University reviews self-driving, robotic technology for cars and argues that today’s cars are grossly inefficient when it comes to basic resources such as human health, energy, and human productivity.  He assesses the technology behind the prototype vehicles showcased in a recent series of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Challenges, and lays out a technology roadmap for building affordable and reliable robotic cars. 

            An accompanying Technical Perspective by Leslie Pack Kaelbling of MIT notes that the systems described in this research paper exhibit important steps toward the goal of truly integrated, robust, intelligent systems that interact with the physical world. She predicts that this progress will provide the basis for revolutionary advances in intelligent robots for homes, hospitals, and factories. 

            Robots for research and rescue may be nearing prime time, reports technology writer Gary Anthes.  He identifies a variety of applications including search, reconnaissance and mapping, removing or shoring up rubble, delivery of supplies, medical treatment, and evacuation of causalities.  Despite a flurry of research following the 1995 earthquake near Kobe, Japan, and the truck bomb that exploded outside a federal government building in Oklahoma City, OK, and the resulting progress in the field, Anthes cites the continuing challenges of information processing, mobility, and manipulation that must advance before for search and rescue robots are widely deployed.   

            Other April Communications articles:

  •     Government officials are tapping into technology in ever more sophisticated ways to monitor voice and data communications, writes Samuel Greengard in an article to which Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation contributed.  He cites historical examples where well-established legal protections have not always prevented abuses, brought on by a quantum leap in technology that has ratcheted up the stakes between protection and privacy and led to deep concerns. 
  •     In an article developed by acmqueue, a CTO Roundtable, the fourth in an ongoing series, debates malware as a huge source of individual threats to online information assets, and concludes that it is an evolving, extremely dynamic area, reflecting equal measures of art and science.  Citing a declining rate of infection among the commercial PC sector relative to consumer-facing PCs, moderator Mache Creeger of Emergent Technology Associates points to the success of security professionals working in commercial sites to defend against these threats.  Participants included Michael Barrett of PayPal, Jeff Green of McAfee Lab, Vlad Gorelik of AVG Technologies, Vincent Weafer of Symantec, Opinder Bawa of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, and Steve Bourne of El Dorado Ventures. 
  •     The fundamental assumptions of international development are changing, contends Richard Heeks of the University of Manchester, UK  He highlights new IT-enabled models that can transform the processes and structures of development, and analyzes how they are changing the way we “do development” due to the rapid diffusion of information technology into the developing world. 
  •    BLOG@CACM  guest blogger Michael Stonebraker, adjunct professor at MIT, considers several performance arguments in favor of NoSQL databases, and finds them insufficient. 

            For more information on Communications of the ACM, click on


About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking. 

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