Tag Archives: energy efficency

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.

Radical Innovation in ARPA-E

ARPA-E (Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy) invests in risky, but potentially disruptive, early-stage research on clean, affordable, energy technologies – much as the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) invested in radical ideas for defense (with funding from the U.S. military sector, a “dedicated customer”, while ARPA-E target open market and commodity applications). DARPA was the DOE agency responsible for successful technological innovations such as Internet and the stealth technology found in the F117A.

Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy

ARPA-e: Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy

It’s already a long story: recognizing the need to reevaluate the way the United States spurs innovation, the National Academies released a 2006 report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm”, that included the recommendation to establish ARPA-E within the Department of Energy (DOE). ARPA-E was created in 2007, but it didn’t receive a budget until April 2009 with $400 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), when President Obama launched it in a speech at NAS. In its first year, ARPA-E awarded $363 million in Recovery Act funding to 121 groundbreaking energy projects, with approximately 39% of projects led by universities, 33% by small businesses, 20% by large businesses, 5% by national labs, and 3% by non-profits. Funding was recently at risk and reduced as explained in http://www.innovationpolicy.org/arpa-es-semi-new-lease-on-life even if U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced in April 2011 that up to $130 million from ARPA-E will be made available to develop five new program areas that could spark critical breakthrough technologies and secure America’s energy future, two months earlier ARPA-E announced six of its projects have secured more than $100 million in outside private capital investment.

Radical innovation as in ARPA-E http://arpa-e.energy.gov/ means seeking:

  • Entirely new tech approaches to existing problems, in order to bring a freshness, excitement, and sense of mission.
  • Seeking and developing disruptive concepts to build “Disruptive” capabilities in entirely new areas with broad impact. “The best way to predict the future is to help create it”
  • Opportunities to bring together silo-ed disciplines, in order to attract many of the best and brightest minds—those of experienced scientists and engineers, and, especially, those of students and young researchers, including persons in the entrepreneurial world;

It can be achieved by these ARPA-E organizational and cultural attitudes:

  • STRUCTURE: distinct, nimble, flexible, “flat” and sparse org;  capable of sustaining for long periods of time those projects whose promise remains real, while phasing out programs that do not prove to be as promising as anticipated; Risk-taking, committed PMs.
  • DNA: highest standard of excellence, aggressive, always questioning assumptions, output oriented
  • FOCUS: high-risk/high-reward, at the forefront, addressing white space, translational stage projects; creative “out-of-the-box” transformational energy research where success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation
  • APPROACH: promoting breakthrough technical advancement with rigorous consideration for commercialization, deployment, and impact at every step of the process. Conceived as a new tool to bridge the gap between basic energy research and development/industrial innovation. Honest broker among competing approaches. Success depends on its relationships with other organizations and its understanding of the current and projected security context.

Therefore ARPA-E as an R&D funding agency, identifies and supports high-risk, high-reward,  advanced energy technologies, helping to forge alliances between the innovators and adopters – in whatever country or industry they might lie, but it aims to provide:

  • commercialization support, not just to solve technical challenges,
  • national (US) security through economic and environmental one, too:
    • Reduce Energy-Related Emissions
    • Reduce Energy Imports
    • Improve Energy Efficiency
    • Ensure U.S. technological lead

Among its programs are initiatives (partially related to ICT) for:

  • higher-energy-density batteries for electric vehicles (BEEST, Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage for Transportation: to allow electric cars with longer 300 miles range and lower life-cycle cost than gasoline cars),
  • more energy-efficient cooling systems for buildings (BEETIT Building Energy Efficiency Through Innovative Thermo-devices),
  • grid-scale energy storage (GRIDS, Grid-scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatachable Storage, to address high variability, up to minutes, in renewables, by 2-5 cheaper solutions with minimized response time, compared with pumped hydro and underground compressed air, to enable wide deployment), a different project is addressing Thermal Energy Storage with Supercritical Fluids.
  • software and hardware to radically improve power grid management and transmission (GENI Green Electricity Network Integration)
  • efficient conversion of sunlight to fuels (Electrofuels by electricity + non-photosynthetic microbes etc.).

Arun Majumdar, Director, ARPA-E, stated in 2010: “The widespread use of fossil fuels has long driven the engine of economic growth, and yet our dependence on these fuels severely threatens our national and environmental security due to our growing foreign energy dependence as well as climate change. Business as usual is not an option, as the outcome will be devastating. This is true not only for the US, but also for all nations in this interconnected world. The nation that successfully grows its economy with more efficient energy use, a clean domestic energy supply, and a smart energy infrastructure will lead the global economy of the 21st century.” And in 2011 at the 2011 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit: “What ARPA-e does best is identify the opportunities and create the competition. And eventually, the market will pick the winners.”

ICT for Energy Efficiency

I’d like to poit you to these following interesting documents from the High Level event on ICT for Energy Efficiency, organised by the European Commission’s Information Society and Media Directorate-General, in cooperation with the Spanish Presidency of the European Union: