Microsoft: We want your computer to talk in its sleep

Microsoft Research in partnership with USCD are working on a USB device, called the "Somniloquy" (which by definition means to "Talk in one's sleep") which allows your computer to carry on performing network processes while it is asleep or in a low power state.

The Somniloquy allows a computer to process network traffic, even if the computers CPU, hard disk, display and I/O buses are powered down, without losing network connectivity. As described in the research paper, the interface could manage many network-related tasks such as maintaining a remote desktop connection, receiving instant messages, torrenting and managing a VOIP account, while the computer itself is asleep.

The USB network adapter (as described in this research paper) is made up of a Gumstix chipset with a 200 MHz XScale processor, 64 MB of RAM and a 2 GB SD memory card running Linux. If the adapter detects that the connected machine has entered sleep mode, it copies over the networking information and begins carrying out communications on its behalf.

The Microsoft and USCD researchers also showed that the adapter can perform more complex tasks - like the mentioned instant messaging application. The example in the research paper shows that the researchers created a modified instant messaging client that can respond to network messages and wake the host when a message is received. The researchers also developed a compact torrent client application that continues to download a file while the host is asleep.

The aim of the USB device would be to reduce the amount of energy that is "wasted" by computers that are left on for trivial tasks for large amounts of time. The device has the ability to perform the low-power intensive tasks on its own, and wake the computer to perform ones that require more processing power. There is also a wireless version available that requires two wireless NICs to function.

The system is only in the prototype phase and still has a lot of testing and further research required before it would be commercially available.


Image credit: Microsoft Research Paper

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Why not to extend existing "Intelligent Platform Management Interface" (IPMI) supported by Dell, HP, Intel and NEC?

Unlikely, this device replaces having your entire machine on. So instead of having a machine running windows on, you have a machine running linux, which can be setup to be much more secure, only running a limited number of applications, and locked down completely.

Plus, it can't run Visual Basic, so most script kiddies will be all out of luck.

Maybe Media Center will actually work while the PC is off (or at least it can be woken up). About time this WOL esque technology is being considered.

Stupid. Just make our current hardware power scale much more efficiently. Why can't all add in and integrated components be selectively powered down? Why can't my CPU throttle back even further? Why is my PSU an inefficient idiot that only has two modes and barely talks to the rest of my PC? Why doesn't my GPU shut down when my monitor goes into standby?

Waste of time stop gap when proper power scaling is the final solution. What next? An even smaller processor to wake and sleep my mini network PC that wakes and sleeps my main PC?

The whole overnight downloading thing is also achievable with a torrent/usenet client on a single drive NAS from the likes of Buffalo. I'm glad to see people starting to think about power savings though.

Wondering if the hdd is off, where it save data to? the SD card? linux runs off of that. When I'm torrenting a 10gb say, it's gonna be a problem. Nonetheless, I like the idea and should be add to future motherboards.

Sounds similar to the "Killer NIC", but in USB form and with an emphasis on power consumption. Both are ARM-based computers running embedded Linux and capable of doing network tasks (i.e. BitTorrent downloading) without interaction with the host computer.

Microsoft Research in partnership with USCD are working on a USB device. ... and a 2 GB SD memory card running Linux.

lol Microsoft creating something that is running linux!

OH well, even Microsoft have to get something right every now and again :)

That does create the question, why don't they run Windows 7 on the thing, I mean Windows 7 is the amazing new OS that will run on anything?

cakesy said,
OH well, even Microsoft have to get something right every now and again :)

That does create the question, why don't they run Windows 7 on the thing, I mean Windows 7 is the amazing new OS that will run on anything?


MS figured they might as well put on OS on it that doesn't do much of anything, let alone real work. ;-)

The torrent client should have the ability to handle > 2gb files, so it downloads until 2 gb, then pause, start the PC, copy the chunks to the HDD, then turn off the PC, resume torrenting.
But is this even possible ?
What I see here, for example if I download ISO, uTorrent allocates the entire space needed before even the download starts.

Edit: They already thought about that
"The flash storage is used as a
temporary buffer to store data before the data is transferred
in a larger chunk to the PC. A larger flash on the
secondary processor allows the PC to sleep longer (Section
3.2"

I think it could serve great purposes.

Download data, at 1.8gb wake up pc and write it away to the HDD, then put the PC back to sleep and go on downloading etc etc.

Being a bill payer I turn off my PC at night. I would like this though for my online backup to take place despite my pc being turned off.

SK[ said,]Being a bill payer I turn off my PC at night. I would like this though for my online backup to take place despite my pc being turned off.


Use a more power-efficient machine your overnight downloads. According to my UPS software, my ASUS EEE-Box B202 draws 27 watts--including my modem, router and switch.

It's not a terribly fast machine, but downloads aren't exactly CPU-intensive either.

duneworld said,
This new tech means that you can have one computer, rather than two, which has got to be cheaper.


Maybe so, but you only get the power savings benefit when the computer is off. My ASUS is still a fully functional machine. I certainly could see some people using it as their only one.

_dandy_ said,
Awesome. Now you can get infected even while your PC is turned off.

looks like those paranoid ppl who press standby on their modems were onto somethin

Neoauld said,
looks like those paranoid ppl who press standby on their modems were onto somethin


Nah. That was just a general comment. Can't say I'm too worried for my own machines.

if the hard drives n all that are off, how does it process downloads tot hem
or with remote desktop, how would you 'use' the pc remotely

ill definately have to read up on this but it seems like a really cool technology, cause i have 2 pc's on 24/7, and mine stays on 24/7 just so i can remote in, or leave IM/downloads goin

Neoauld said,
if the hard drives n all that are off, how does it process downloads tot hem
or with remote desktop, how would you 'use' the pc remotely

ill definately have to read up on this but it seems like a really cool technology, cause i have 2 pc's on 24/7, and mine stays on 24/7 just so i can remote in, or leave IM/downloads goin

The way I read it was that it would wake the computer when an RDP request comes in similar to how WOL functions (which may or may not be viable over the Internet for some people).

Nice! About time someone researched this power-saving hardware. If it can really take over from the OS interface and keep all connections alive, sans the CPU, then that'd be SOME achievement!

"...and a 2 GB SD memory card running linux." I believe I saw Microsoft® logo somewhere in the corner... ;)

The way the SD card hangs out of the main PCB shows how "prototypish" the product is! If its going to be released in the next decade anyway, might as well support upcoming wireless technologies (WiFi N, maybe?)

Skullpture said,
More like PCConnect24 Regardless, it is a great idea for PCs since I know many friends who leave their computers torrenting overnight.

Makes for a great botnet too.