Utility computing meets the utilties

I am currently attending the Corporate Climate Response conference in NYC (carbon-balanced flying courtesy of Expedia). The following is a recap of a panel discussion on implementation strategies for corporate climate initiatives.


The T2000 server lines up for climate change fighting duty

How much do you pay for computing? For most of our lives, this has been an issue settled at the cash register of your favorite electronics retailer. But things are changing in a big way. According to IDC, as soon as 2010, we could be paying more to power our computers than we pay for the machines themselves.

Nowhere is this trend felt more strongly than in corporate data centers, those massive banks of computers that perform utility computing tasks such as serving up search engine results. The impact is staggering — more than 4% of US global warming emissions are directly attributable to data centers. To put this perspective, aviation accounts for only 5%. In raw numbers, Dave Douglas from Sun Microsystems estimates the impact in the US alone at 200 million metric tons (the equivalent impact of 40 million cars) and close to a billion tons globally.

Worse, the energy required to power the machines themselves is more than doubled by the surrounding infrastructure. Douglas estimates that for every watt a computer in a data center needs, an additional 1.4 watts are drawn for temperature control and power conversion.

The solutions? Some are simple product substitution. Sun bills the processors inside its T2000 servers as the most “eco-responsible every created,” with the “best performance per watt of any processor available.” That was enough for PG&E to offer an energy rebate for customers replacing old servers with the T2000. The machine is selling briskly, helping Sun deliver a solid business case for green technologies, and showing everyone else just one more example of how to do good by doing good.

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  1. Charlie Wise - November 1, 2006

    You guys are doing great work! I’ve been a terra pass owner since July, ’05 and renewed for our family vehicle this summer.

    Good, also, to see you illuminating the broader realm of efficiency and environmental best practices. This piece on computing is near and dear to my heart. While the data center has received a great deal of press, the greatest single culprit in the computing realm is the actual PC network. Each “appliance” wastes an average of 300-400 kWh per year. When you consider the literally millions of PCs within federal agencies, Fortune 1000 corporations, and other educational, state, and local entities, the waste is staggering.

    The following recent Network World piece bridges the gap between high-profile server waste awareness by Google and the more fundamental (and impactful) work of groups like 80-Plus and Verdiem. Additional information on Verdiem’s specific approach to PC waste can be found at http://www.verdiem.com

    Baltimore, MD

  2. Daniel Barker - November 1, 2006

    Since we live in a temperate zone, and we heat more than we cool, doesn’t it make since to use the heat from computers as heat for your home? You could use the heat from the computer to heat your water tank.
    Big appliances are required by law to display power consumption and estimated annual costs of running. Perhaps we need this for all appliances, regardless of power consumption.
    As a concerned citizen, I try to conserve energy. If we disagree with some of our elected officials over energy policies, we have no right to complain if we buy energy-guzzlers – in fact, we are supporting the very politicians we are complaining about.
    This carries over into my personal life. I eat meat sparingly (and save fossil fuel, water and land).
    Thank you