The data centers with big cloud use high-density storages, tailored chips, ultrafast networking and customized airflow systems, so-called virtual-machine software–– all to boost computing firepower with the least electricity
Fremont, CA: With more and more data centers coming online, environmentalists have raised their concern regarding the massive consumption of electricity and rising pollution. But, a study shows that though the cloud computing output has jumped six times or 600 percent from 2010 to 2018, their energy consumption rose only 6 percent. The environmentalist's concerns have greatly been overstated by the data revealed in this study.
Tech giants like Google have increased their efficiencies with custom-tailored airflow solutions, new chip designs, and other technologies. Another major force behind improving efficiency is the shift to cloud computing. The cloud model enables businesses and individuals to consume computing over the internet as services for raw calculations and data storage. Big tech companies, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, own some of the world's largest data centers, sometimes the size of a football field.
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These tech giants are highly motivated to save money. If compared to 2015, Google generates seven times more computing power today with no extra use of energy. Google's technical infrastructure VP, Urs Hölzle, wrote that the company found those savings by designing high-efficiency Tensor Processing Units and using machine learning to optimize cooling.
The energy use in computer centers doubled during 2000 to 2005. The Environmental Protection Agency, in 2007, forecasted another doubling of consumption of energy by the data centers from 2005 to 2010. But, in 2011, Jonathan Koomey, a former scientist at the Berkeley lab, made an assessment on the request of The New York Times about how much electricity the data center has consumed between 2005 and 2010 and what is the increasing percentage. The result was quite shocking as his reports suggested that there has been a global increase of 56 percent of energy consumption, which is far less than the previous predictions. True that the recession after the 2008 financial crisis played a role in lowering the percentage, but so did gains in efficiency.
Post-2010, things changed, and some of the big improvements were witnessed. The authors wrote in Science, "the data center landscape has changed dramatically." The researchers estimated in 2010 that 79 percent of data center computing was taken place in smaller traditional computer centers, which were owned and run by non-tech companies. The percentage increased to 89 by the year 2018.
The data centers with big cloud use high-density storages, tailored chips, ultrafast networking and customized airflow systems, so-called virtual-machine software–– all to boost computing firepower with the least electricity.
"The big tech companies eke out every bit of efficiency for every dollar they spend," said Mr. Masanet, who left Northwestern last month to join the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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