Category Archives: Energy

More on Cloud Computing and Green ICT

In my previous post Cloud Computing and Green IT I’ve already referenced some interesting examples about the role of booming cloud services in getting an higher percentage of direct (total electricity use by data centers in 2010 of about 1.3% of all electricity use for the world, and 2% of all electricity use for the US according to this report by Analytics Press, author: Jonathan Koomey : “Growth in Data center electricity use 2005 to 2010”) and indirect (mobile devices, social networking) impact to GHG ICT emissions but also the opportunities of reducing both the cost and the environmental impact of internal, on premise, ICT by migrating services to the cloud. Since then I’ve added some comments to provide new interesting links, but everything is moving very quickly in the sky, since the cloud is the enabling technology for a radical change, driven by the power of social networking, globalization of services, the replacement of PC by mobile devices, the emerging role of the Internet of Things.

For example on Dec, 15th the: GreenPeace campaign for pushing Facebook to use clean energy has achieved a major milestone: Greenpeace and Facebook have announced that they will collaborate on the promotion of renewable energy, encourage major utilities to develop renewable energy generation, and develop programs that will enable Facebook users to save energy and engage their communities in clean energy decisions.

The campaign involved 700,000 online activists, which called on Facebook (setting a world record for the most comments on a single Facebook post in one day: 80,000) to power its data centers with clean energy instead of coal, leveraging social network to push changes. “This move sets an example for the industry to follow,” said Tzeporah Berman, Co-director of Greenpeace’s International Climate and Energy Program. “This shift to clean, safe energy choices will help fight global warming and ensure a stronger economy and healthier communities.”

Previously GreenPeace got Google to provide more with numbers on their annual energy use and their carbon footprint in the new section called “The Big Picture” of their Google Green site. Both Google and Facebook made also public statement about their choice to build new Data Centers for Cloud in locations where they can leverage the availability of renewable energy source and get almost free cooling:

· Google newest facility in Hamina, Finland, uses a unique seawater cooling system that requires very little electricity

· Facebook is to build its first data center outside the United States in the northern Swedish town of Lulea. It will be the northernmost of its size on Earth and will serve more than 800 million users. Lulea, because its cold climate would save energy for cooling, and it could use environmentally friendly (and low cost) hydro-power connected with a reliable grid.

IT will be interesting to see now how all the other companies involved in the GreenPeace campaign “Facebook: Unfriend Coal” based on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will react to the pressure from this NGO. Meanwhile GreenPeace keeps on updating the Guide to Greener Electronics, which has in the 6 years of its existence, now 17th edition, a scorecard for ranking 15 leading consumer electronics companies (mobile phone, TV and PC manufacturers) on policies and practices to reduce their impact on the climate, produce greener products, and make their operations more sustainable. It’s interesting to notice that HP is now “the top scoring company – strongest on sustainable operations and energy criteria but could improve on green products criteria”.

The greater opportunity for Cloud is not only to become more sustainable by itself, but in providing a more efficient and sustainable solution to customers. Jonathan Koomey is Consulting Professor at Stanford University and has researched and written extensively on electricity use by IT equipment. In a recent blog he gave four reasons why he thought cloud computing is (with few exceptions) significantly more energy efficient than using in-house data centres:

· It’s cheaper for large cloud computing providers to make efficiency improvements because they can spread the costs over a larger server base and can afford to be more focused on addressing energy use.

· With more users who are spread across different locations, computing loads are spread over the day, allowing for increased equipment utilisation. Cloud facilities for major vendors can be in the 30-40% utilization range, compared with 5-15% for in-house data centres.

· Cloud installations more often use virtualization and other techniques to separate the software from the physical servers, which allows for the greater optimisation of servers.

· Cloud computing sidesteps organizational issues, such as the problem of IT driving server purchases but facilities paying the electric bill. Cloud providers generally have one data centre budget and clear responsibilities assigned to one person.

Many other studies on this topic are being published: one of the most important is the study from CDP & Verdantix Cloud Computing – The IT Solution for the 21st Century help to understand that “large US companies that use cloud computing will be able to save $12.3bn in energy costs and 85.7 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually by 2020. The energy savings are enough to power 5.7 million cars for one year. ”

There are also new studies sponsored by ICT companies to prove benefits of moving to cloud, for example:

· The Google study on Gmail is an example of how cloud-based services can be much more energy efficient (up to 80 times) than locally hosted services, helping businesses cut their electricity bills.

· WSP Environment & Energy, that has already done the study for Microsoft and Accenture, published the March 2011 research study on saving provided by the cloud based CRM supporting the statement that A salesforce.com transaction is on average 95% more carbon efficient than when processed in an equivalent on-premises deployment (64% more carbon efficient versus a private cloud deployment). The following is an example of daily saving claimed by Salesforce on http://www.salesforce.com/company/sustainability/impact.jsp (a calculator “Measure your impact” is also provided to help customers in evaluating how they can reduce their carbon emissions by moving their business to the cloud).

Please, let me know if you find this topic valuable by providing me some feedback, I should have much more information to share, and a presentation on this topic (sorry it’s in Italian) that I did at the IT Director Forum 2011 (Executive Circle) by Richmond Italia that is available to members of “Acquisti&Sostenibilità” on the portal in the studies section
Donato Toppeta

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Low Power Computers/Devices are closer!

Intel has demonstrated an experimental (not commercial) low-powered microprocessor, based on Near Threshold Voltage (NTV) Processor technology (circuits operate at 400-500mV), that can be powered by a small solar cell (same size as a postage stamp). Code named Claremont, it consumes < 10mW when workload is light, and combined with the Hybrid Memory Cube was capable of running a PC using the Linux OS (the design was based on the Pentium, but much more energy efficient).

The Hybrid Memory Cube, is a concept DRAM developed by Micron in collaboration with Intel, delivering a 7-fold improvement in energy-efficiency over today’s DDR3. Hybrid Memory Cube uses a stacked memory chip configuration, forming a compact “cube,” and uses a new, highly efficient memory interface which sets the bar for energy consumed per bit transferred. Those new technologies raise the prospect of greener computing, allowing longer battery life for mobile devices and powerful, energy-efficient, extreme power saving processors for other scenarios such as extreme scale computing. One goal of the NTV research is in fact to enable architectures where power consumption is so low that entire devices could be powered not only by solar energy, but also by vibrations, thermoelectricity or ambient surrounding wireless signals.
I remember that this scenario was already proposed by Gunter Pauli in his “Blue Economy” book and in many lectures/posts, but now it’s more clear that our future mobile and embedded (IoT) devices will be less dependent from batteries (reducing also pollution due to e-waste) and that the future datacenters needed for the cloud will not keep on wasting so much power using “heat-sink free” CPU.
Intel has in fact a company-wide goal of delivering 300-fold improvement in energy efficiency in high-performance computing over the next 10 years. Meanwhile Intel has announced in march 2011 that it will deliver in 2012 four new processors for the category that span 45 watt high performance to sub-10 watt, all with advanced server features such as 64-bit, Virtualization Technology and Error-Correcting Code. More recently Intel has stated that they are working on a new class of platform power management for Ultrabooks™ that will aid in the delivery of always-on-always-connected computing. Both Google and Microsoft are working with Intel and will leverage Ultrabooks in their Android and Windows 8 platforms.

JRC: a new Smart Grid report

From the JRC a very interesting news on smart grid:

“Brussels, 7 July 2011 – Intelligent electricity networks – smart grids – are a key component in the EU energy strategy, but substantial investments are needed to make them a reality. A new study from the European Commission’s inhouse science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), presents a review of 219 smart grid projects Europewide. The vast majority of investments, amounting to about €5.5 billion, were made in old Member States (“EU15”), while new Member States (“EU12”) tend to lag behind. By providing a complete catalogue of the projects to date, the report showcases how smart grids can help integrate more renewables, accommodate electric vehicles, give more control to consumers over their energy consumption, avoid blackouts and restore power quickly when outages occur. “

More information and full report are available here