A team of experts from industry and academia have found a way to slash the energy consumption of data centres used by information and communications technologies (ICT) by more than 20%.
ICT from telephone lines to computers and audio-visual systems, in short the devices that make our lives easier and more flexible in the 21st century, were responsible for about 2% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2008.
This means that CO2 emissions from ICT were just under 1 billion tonnes, a figure equivalent to the fuel consumption of the aviation sector. But while governments, industry and regulators argue over the need and ways to bring emissions from aviation under control, much less is heard about the necessity of reducing CO2 from ICT in the fight against climate change.
Data centres are a significant part of ICT and their considerable CO2 emissions are damaging both to the planet and company budgets - energy-related costs total over 40% of data centres' expenses. But there is a glimmer of light on the horizon.
Researchers working on the EU-funded project FIT4Green ('Federated IT for a sustainable environmental impact') project, which received EUR 3185000 of support under the 'ICT' Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), believe they have found a solution that can reduce data centre energy consumption by more than 20%.
As part of the project, experts from industry and academia designed and implemented an energy-aware plug-in that works on top of the current management tools used by data centres to organise the allocation of ICT resources and turn off unused equipment. According to the team, their invention allows direct energy savings of 20% from ICT equipment and, equally as importantly, the technology does not compromise the equipment's compliance with Service Level Agreements (SLA) and Quality of Service (QoS) metrics.
Moreover, the team said that it achieved savings in CO2 emissions that were on the same scale as the energy savings. The researchers were equally as delighted to learn that direct energy savings for ICT equipment also induced remarkable additional savings due to the reduced needs for cooling, for example.
The importance of the FIT4Green project is clear from the variety of partners involved - ranging from leading multinationals to start-ups and university departments. Indeed, the project was coordinated by the Spanish company GFI Informática with Hewlett Packard Italy Innovation Centre (HP-IIC) as the technological leader. Other partners included the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the universities of Passau and Mannheim, Germany, Imperial College London, United Kingdom, the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC), Germany, Create-Net, a UK-based website design company, Eni, the Italian multinational oil and gas company, and Almende, a Dutch research firm.
According to the researchers, the beauty of the FIT4Green plug-in is that it has been designed to be applicable to any data centre type. This fact was validated in three representative data centres: the service/enterprise portal at Eni, the supercomputing data centre at JSC with a federated site at VTT, and a cloud computing platform at HP-IIC.
The target of 20% was reached in each test bed and in some cases the savings were as much as 50%. The comparison point for all the savings was the same system without any energy optimisations, said VTT, whose main contribution to the project was working on optimisations in the supercomputing scenario.
The technology is now available to anyone who wants to use it with all 16 public deliverables of the project freely available on the FIT4Green project website. Likewise, the plug-in code has been released as open source software.
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