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Designing energy-efficient clusters has recently become an important concern to make these systems economically attractive for many applications. Since the cluster interconnect is a major part of the system, the focus of this paper is to characterize and optimize the energy consumption in the entire interconnect. Using a cycle-accurate simulator of an InfiniBand Architecture (IBA) compliant interconnect fabric and actual designs of its components, we investigate the energy behavior on regular and irregular interconnects. The energy profile of the three major components (switches, network interface cards (NICs), and links) reveals that the links and switch buffers consume the major portion of the power budget. Hence, we focus on energy optimization of these two components. To minimize power in the links, first we investigate the dynamic voltage scaling (DVS) algorithm and then propose a novel dynamic link shutdown (DLS) technique. The DLS technique makes use of an appropriate adaptive routing algorithm to shut down the links intelligently. We also present an optimized buffer design for reducing leakage energy in 70nm technology. Our analysis on different networks reveals that, while DVS is an effective energy conservation technique, it incurs significant performance penalty at low to medium workload. Moreover, energy saving with DVS reduces as the buffer leakage current becomes significant with 70nm design. On the other hand, the proposed DLS technique can provide optimized performance-energy behavior (up to 40 percent energy savings with less than 5 percent performance degradation in the best case) for the cluster interconnects.