Weekly Takeaways-August 10, 2022

Updated: Sep 29

Time to Save the World Timing synchronization provides the grease for efficient networks. This efficiency helps reduce power consumption, and, by extension, harmful emissions. While it is difficult to show the direct link between timing accuracy and power consumption, some case studies show the potential. For example, timing in data centers reduces the effort to work with distributed databases. A joint Facebook and NVIDIA project showed that “making the timekeeping 80x more precise made a distributed database run 3x faster - an incredible performance boost on the same server hardware, just from keeping more accurate and more reliable time.” This inspired them to set up the Time Appliance Project, stating that “Time is a key element to get the highest efficiency in a distributed system.” The benefits of synchronization also extend to power grids. A Norwegian power utility estimates that synchronized digital substations in power grids could help recover 9% of their energy, and the Swedish Transport Administration estimates that phase synchronization could result in a 1 TWh/year potential energy savings. Better timing = more efficiency = lower power consumption = reduced emissions = Save the World. Last Week's Theme: Timing is Everything

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The More You Know...

Did it feel like your day went by especially fast on Wednesday, June 29? That's because the Earth had the shortest day on record, completing one rotation in 1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours. In general, over long periods of time the Earth's rotation slows down by a tiny bit. To keep the 24-hour day synced with the rotation, scientists will occasionally add leap seconds to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the international time standard. However, in recent years the Earth's rotation has been mysteriously speeding up. So scientists may need to subtract a leap second rather than add one! But it doesn't matter to network operators like Google, Microsoft, Meta and Amazon. They want to scrap the leap second altogether because any discontinuous jump of that magnitude can wreak havoc with their networks. For the same reason, GPS time -- the current source of network timing -- doesn't use leap seconds That's why GPS time now differs from UTC time by 18 seconds.