We better think “Green IT“– part 1: Reducing energy in data centers

Energy drives the Internet

Did you know that every Google search request produces 0,2g of CO2? Not much, you might think, but the whole Internet world produces about 11 billion Google searches each month. And that makes it a lot, 2,200 tons, to be precise!  Google lately said that all their worldwide data centers need about 1/10,000 of the overall world’s energy consumption. Well, just a small piece, but that’s just one single company! The next fact brings me to the point: Scientists believe that the Internet by the year 2030 will consumption the amount of energy, that the whole world uses today.

That’s why I want to talk about “Green IT”. Although, IT will never be “green”. It will always need and waste energy. But, what we can do is, to reduce the amount of power consumption to a reconcilable level. I work for a data center service provider; I have to care about that. When you handle thousands of servers, you better think of green IT.

More than energy saving

Well, green IT is more than energy saving. It’s about chemical substances; it’s about paper waste and other things. But the energy topic is the most important one. In a data center you don’t switch off servers. You might switch off the lights, but that doesn’t matter. Servers in a data center run 7 days, 24 hours. Thus, a data center uses energy like thousands of private households do. And that’s the point to start with.

Cloud computing saves energy

A typical server needs power, but is only used at 10-25% of its capacity. That is, where virtualization and Computing clouds can help. This technology puts a couple of logical servers onto a physical machine and by that sees to it that this machine is used more efficiently. The same amount of logical servers runs on less physical machines. And the need of less physical servers saves energy.

Low power CPUs in standard servers

The next point is the server itself. The industry developed CPUs with much less power requirements at the same performance level. These CPUs are mainly produced for mobile devices, notebooks and high density electronics, where there is only little battery power available or the produced heat is critical. However, we can use these CPUs in standard servers as well. And by that, we save energy.

Central power supplies

Each server typically has a separate power supply. In data centers servers usually have more of them than needed, due to availability reasons. Unfortunately, each power supply wastes energy while it converts the power to a level the machine needs. In a data center, a way to reduce these power conversion losses is to implement central power supplies. Instead of using thousands of little power supplies you can setup a few huge central ones. In that case you don’t drive your servers with standard AC power, but with already converted DC power. The huge central power supplies will produce much less conversion losses than the thousands small ones. Unfortunately, there are not very many compatible servers available in the market, which can work with such central conversion. But there is a huge potential for energy savings at data centers with this technology.

Some providers and initiatives are working on that issue to push the industry providing appropriate servers. E.g., Microsoft, Facebook and others uses special servers customized to their individual needs. Another example is the Open Compute project (http://opencompute.org), which also requests new server designs from the industry.

Well, the whole topic is about a lot more than said so far. But for now, let’s stop here. Wait for my sequel at one of the next blog entries.

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