Cloud Computing has created a revolution in modern IT. It redefines the concept and the practice of using and provisioning IT resources like network, servers etc. It offers a promising environmental protection prospects as well as economic and technological advantages1.
What is Green Cloud Computing?
The modern concept and technologies have the potential to improve energy efficiency and to reduce carbon footprints and (e-)waste. Eventually, these features enforce the concept of Green Cloud Computing or Eco-friendly Cloud Computing or Green Computing. We often termed that as Green IT.
It gives an opportunity to perform a fine-grained modeling of the energy consumed by the data center IT equipment such as computing servers, network switches and communication links.
What is Carbon Footprint and what is it’s impact on environment?
The term Carbon Footprint symbolizes the amount of Green House Gases like Carbon-dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) etc. that are released to the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or a community.
This CO2 emissions directly impact the earth’s temperature and thereby on Global Climate.
We all know that the earth’s atmosphere has always acted like a greenhouse to capture the Sun’s heat, ensuring that the earth has enjoyed temperatures that permitted the emergence of life forms. Today, the problem is that the heat is being trapped inside greenhouse earth that the temperature of the earth is going up faster than at any previous time in history.
Fig 1 , Fig 2 will give a an idea to the readers.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature on earth could be between 1.1o C to 5.4o C warmer in 2100 than what we have today.
Now, let’s have a quick look on the C02 emission statistics globally.
Based on a report of NOAA Climate.gov, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere (raspberry line in Fig 3) has increased along with human emissions (blue line in Fig 3) since the start of the Industrial Revolution in 17502. Emissions rose slowly to about 5 billion tons a year in the mid-20th century before skyrocketing to more than 35 billion tons per year by the end of the century.
Let’s review the recent stat of C02 emission w.r.t different geographical region given by Global Carbon Atlas
Based on an old report (Winter, 2008) from McKinsey, Data Centers were contributing almost 0.2% of total Carbon dioxide emissions in the world.
Please refer Fig 5.
In 2008, the world’s 44 million servers were consuming 0.5 percent of all electricity, with data center emissions approaching those of countries such as Argentina or the Netherlands.
In the United States alone, growth in electricity used by data centers between 2008 and 2010 was equivalent of ten new power plants. The report claimed that the projections show worldwide carbon emissions from data centers will quadruple by now considering no impact to curb demand.
According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by a little more than 1° Celsius (2° Fahrenheit) since 1880.
TOI claimed that the global warming is responsible for 150,000 deaths every year. Not only that, the change in climate is expected to push 100 million more people towards poverty.
How to Reduce Data Center Carbon Footprints?
An article published in nature.com in 2018 demands that the Data centers contribute around 0.3% to overall carbon emissions, whereas the information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem as a whole — under a sweeping definition that encompasses personal digital devices, mobile-phone networks and televisions — accounts for more than 2% of global emissions. This puts ICT at par with Aviation industry in term of carbon footprints.
It would be difficult to predict for future, however, an energy consumption forecast gave a very alarming and worrying fact that the electricity use by ICT could exceed 20% of the global total by the time a child born today reaches her teens, with data centers using more than one-third of that. The fact emphasizes the necessity of opting Green Cloud that can be achieved using a sustainable and renewable alternative energy sources.
Let’s find out the areas where we can reduce the carbon foot print.
For better understanding, we can divide the Carbon Footprint into two distinct segments – (a) Inside Data Center (b) Outside Data Center
Inside Data Center
- Review the assets of a data center and identify the inefficient resources that are not energy effective. These inefficient assets either need to be replaced or upgraded or tuned.
- Involve DCIM tools for better energy utilization. It provides a holistic view and helps data centers to improve the energy efficiency by analyzing data center design, system management functions, asset discovery, energy management and capacity planning.
- Cooling is a major requirement in any data centers and can contribute to the high power consumption. About 40% of the total energy is consumed for cooling the IT equipment3. It has to be designed in an effective way to minimize the over all energy consumption. For example – we may consider open air or free water for cooling data center facilities versus (vs) using powered refrigeration or air-conditioning units. Free cooling requires more than simply keeping the data center’s windows open – data centers must have filters to catch dust particles that can harm server equipment. The filtered air from outside must then be treated to meet specific humidity levels; high humidity can lead to metal rust while low humidity can create static electricity problems. Smart temperature controls, solar panels and wind energy can also help data center managers meet the environmental requirements, while also cutting electricity costs.
Outside Data Center
There are various factors outside Data Center that has a direct impact on CO2 emission. The carbon emission cycle of a data center does not get restricted within the above mentioned areas but it actually starts when the IT or the server equipment are manufactured in an industry, packaged and then transported to Data Center. CO2 emission happens even at the time of the disposal of any server equipment at the end of the life cycle.
Renewable Energy & Data Centers
We have already understood the contribution of data center in emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. The impact of Global Warming is no longer an unknown phenomenon. We’re also aware about the consequences of the rising temperature of our planet. For the benefit of mankind, various research foundations, many major corporate and the environmentalists have started raising their hands against the carbon consumption and black carbon. A journey has already been started for modernizing the Data Centers and for de-carbonation our planet.
Big companies like Google, Microsoft are going for solar & wind. Since 2007, Google is carbon neutral. In 2019, for the third year in a row, Google purchased enough renewable energy to match 100 percent of their annual global electricity consumption. The last 2019 environmental report of Google claimed that. By 2030, Microsoft will be carbon negative. Many multinational energy-management corporation like Schneider Electric is playing a key role in establishing energy-efficient Data Center.
Why Green Cloud is NOT yet a Mainstream Product?
We need to have a proper blend of good intention, collaboration and mass awareness to have Green Cloud in the mainstream. It is NOT always easy for the large enterprise to purchase a clean energy. Sometimes those enterprises don’t even try!
Last year, in a discussion held with “Data Center Knowledge“, Kevin Hagen, Iron Mountain’s VP of environment, social, and governance strategy told that Iron Mountain launched a renewable energy reporting solution called Green Power Pass, based on a voluntary standard from the Future of Internet Power, a working group that’s part of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), which represents hundreds of large corporations. The solution gave all Iron Mountain data center customers regardless of their size a way to record and take credit for the renewable energy the provider buys for the facilities that house their computing equipment. Iron Mountain and its customers Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Akamai all participated in the working group. The three customers have been using Green Power Pass since launch.
Data Center owners have to provide a effective guidelines to it’s customer. They have to explain the benefits and have to enforce the use of renewal energy. Probably, there is still a room to work to make it in the mainstream.
We should capitalize the recent technological growth in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and in Machine Learning (ML) to make the journey of Green Data Center more meaningful and more effective. We have to have a robust system that will have auto heal capacity so that the data center administrators can focus more on future planning rather than focusing on routine tasks only.
Further more, we could think of using these green data center as a power supplier in case if a data center don’t use all the energy it contracted for with a solar generator. There has to have a provision to sell that energy to the power grid.
What are Pros & Cons of Green Clouds
By now, we’ve already realized that Green Cloud supports sustainability with a single motto – “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle“.
We are almost at the end of this article. Let us now focus on the advantages and demerits of the Green Cloud.
Benefits of Green Cloud Computing:
- Sustainable computing means reduced energy consumption thereby reducing the usage of fossil-fuels and ensure reduction on Green House Gas emission.
- Green Cloud helps to preserve and effective use of natural fuels.
- Encourage reuse and recycle – that in turn helps to limit e-waste.
- Green Cloud incorporates good impact on climate and other living and non living creatures on earth.
- As it is energy efficient, it helps to reduce re-occurring costs spend on energy consumption.
Demerits of Green Cloud Computing:
- Even if Green Cloud has many major merits and importance, the initial implementation is comparatively costly.
- We also can observe a shortage in reliable and good consultant in this field of Green Cloud Support. However, many great leaders are focusing on sustainability. Companies like Schneider Electric, are really doing a great job in this field.
- “Green Cloud Computing: A Literature Survey” by Laura-Diana Radu (Genete), Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza |UAIC · Department of Economics, Quantitative Analysis and Information Systems.
- “Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” by Rebecca Lindsey, Researcher, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
- “Data Center Energy and Cost Saving Evaluation” by Z. Songa, X. Zhangb, C. Erikssona
|– What do you think about Green Computing?|
– Do you think we will be able to save our planet without impacting the technical revolution?
Let me know in comment section.
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