WASHINGTON: Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a honeybee dance-inspired communications system, which they claim helps Internet servers work more efficiently. The new system reduces the possibility of a web site becoming overwhelmed with requests and locking out potential users and customers.1
Inspired by the ability of honeybees to collect large amounts of nectar efficiently with limited resources and no central command ... created a communication system to help Internet servers that would normally be devoted solely to one task, move between tasks as needed, the university said Friday in a release.2 In tests based on real internet traffic, the honeybee method has been found to improve service by 4-25%. Craig Tovey, a professor in the H Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, said that he studied the efficiency of honeybees and discussed it with Sunil Nakrani, a computer science colleague visiting from the University of Oxford.
The researchers discussions led them to conclude that bees and internet servers had strikingly similar barriers to efficiency.
"I studied bees for years, waiting for the right application," he said. " When you work with biomimetics you have to look for a close analogy between two systems [and] never a superficial one. And this definitely fit the bill."
Bees tackle their resource allocation problems (i.e. a limited number of bees and unpredictable demands on time and desired location) with a system driven by 'dances'.
The scout bees leave the hive in search of nectar. Once they find a promising spot, they return to the hive 'dance floor' and perform a dance.
The 'direction' of the dance tells the waiting forager bees which direction to fly, the number of 'waggle turns' conveys the distance to the flower patch and the 'length' of the dance conveys the sweetness of the nectar, according to the scientists.
While dancing may not sound like a model of efficiency, Professor Tovey believes that it is optimal for the unpredictable nectar world the bees inhabit.
The system allows the bees to shift seamlessly from one nectar source to a more promising nectar source based on up-to-the-minute conditions.3
Tovey and Sunil Nakrani, a computer science colleague visiting from the University of Oxford, set to work translating the dance-based bee strategy for idle internet servers.
Although optimised for 'normal' conditions, such servers are frequently challenged by spikes in demand. To combat this the researchers developed a virtual 'dance floor' for a network of servers.
When one server receives a user request for a certain web site, an internal advertisement (standing in a little less colourfully for the dance) is placed on the dance floor to attract any available servers. The advertisement duration depends on the demand on the site and how much revenue its users may generate. The longer an commercial remains on the dance floor, the more power is devoted to serving the web site requests advertised by the available servers.
The research has been published in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.
1. Times of India
2. Copyright 2007 by United Press International