The Environmental Cost of Cloud Computing: Assessing Power Use and Impacts

Jonathan G. Koomey, Ph.D.
http://www.koomey.com

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory & Stanford University Presented at Green:Net San Francisco, CA March 24, 2009
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For users, the cloud offers infinitely scalable computing on demand

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So why should cloud users care about power use?

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Power use strongly affects costs for “in-house” IT services (the alternative to relying on the cloud) AND

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Cloud computing suppliers have two inherent advantages on power and costs over “in-house” IT (load diversity and economies of scale)
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(As an aside, most people think the true total cost for “in-house” IT is far lower than it actually is)

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Data centers, where the cloud resides, are where the world of bits meets the world of atoms

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The cloud uses electricity. How much?

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World data center electricity use, 2000 and 2005

Source: Koomey 2008
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How much is 152B kWh?
Italy South Africa Mexico World Data Centers Iran Sweden Turkey
0 50 100 150 200 250 300

Final Electricity Consumption (Billion kWh)
Source for country data in 2005: International Energy Agency, World Energy Balances (2007 edition) 11

Trends push power use both up and down

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Pushing power use up…
•  Increasing demands for
–  E-commerce –  VOIP –  Internet search –  software as a service –  video downloads –  resilience in the face of disaster –  regulatory compliance (e.g. Sarbanes-Oxley) –  IT-enabled business transformation

•  More transistors on a chip + more RAM + more volume servers
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Summary: Delivery of IT services is increasing rapidly

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Pushing power use down…
•  •  •  •  Virtualization/consolidation Cooling and power constraints Recognition of constraints by the C level Metrics
–  Servers + other IT equipment (Spec Power, 80 plus, E*) –  Site infrastructure

•  Utility rebates (PG&E)
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Summary: Information technology is becoming more energy efficient at a furious pace

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Internet electricity intensity
Electricity per GB transferred down 30% per year!

Source: Taylor and Koomey (2008) for 2000 and 2006 data. Trends for 2000 to 2006 extrapolated to 2008 by JK.

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Data center costs are strongly affected by IT power use

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Annualized data center costs

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Two important equations

Power related terms

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In spite of our historical progress, there’s still great potential for improving the energy efficiency of data centers
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Many efficiency opportunities

Source: EPA report to Congress 2007

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Improving the energy efficiency of data centers is as much about people and institutions as it is about technology
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Efficiency opportunities
•  Improve asset management and utilization (multiple benefits) •  Improve efficiency of components (e.g. power supplies) •  Implement consistent metrics and track over time •  Align incentives to minimize True Cost of Ownership •  Think “whole system redesign” (RMI)
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Misplaced incentives
•  Energy, efficiency, and performance metrics not standardized •  Not charging per kW but per square foot •  Split accountability
–  Who pays the bills, IT or facilities? –  Who bears the risk of failure?

•  Hierarchy and culture differences •  Piling safety factor upon safety factor •  Not focusing on total costs for delivering computing services
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Cloud computing suppliers have at least two big advantages on power and costs over “in-house” IT

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1) Diversity: spread loads over many users, improving hardware utilization

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2) Economies of scale: implementing technical + organizational changes is cheaper and easier than for small IT shops
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The biggest environmental story about information technology (IT) is not direct electricity use (which is relatively small) but how IT affects efficiency in the broader society
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Why?

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Moving electrons is always less environmentally damaging than moving atoms

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Example: paper vs. PDF
•  Mass of paper = 5 g/sheet •  Mass of electrons to move a 1 MB PDF file of that page (based on average network electricity intensity of 7 kWh/ GB) is 1.7 x 10-5 g •  Ratio of paper mass to electron mass ~ 300,000
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Conclusions
•  The cloud is responsible for 1-2% of the world’s electricity use. •  Absolute electricity use growing fast (doubling every 5-8 years) •  IT services are growing much faster than electricity use (doubling every year or two). •  Electricity productivity, defined as computing services delivered per kWh, is increasing rapidly and this trend promises to continue. •  The indirect environmental and productivity benefits of IT are likely to be more important than direct electricity use. 33

Key web sites
•  EPA on data centers + 2007 Report to Congress http://www.energystar.gov/datacenters •  LBNL on data centers: http://hightech.lbl.gov/ datacenters.html •  The Green Grid: http://www.thegreengrid.org/ •  The Uptime Institute: http://www.upsite.com/
TUIpages/tuihome.html

•  SPEC power: http://www.spec.org/power_ssj2008/
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References
•  Koomey, Jonathan. 2007a. Estimating regional power consumption by servers: A technical note. Oakland, CA: Analytics Press. December 5. (http:// www.amd.com/koomey) Koomey, Jonathan. 2007b. Estimating total power consumption by servers in the U.S. and the world. Oakland, CA: Analytics Press. February 15. (http:// enterprise.amd.com/us-en/AMD-Business/Technology-Home/PowerManagement.aspx) Koomey, Jonathan, Kenneth G. Brill, W. Pitt Turner, John R. Stanley, and Bruce Taylor. 2007. A simple model for determining true total cost of ownership for data centers. Santa Fe, NM: The Uptime Institute. September. (http:// www.upsite.com/cgi-bin/admin/admin.pl?admin=view_whitepapers) • 

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Koomey, Jonathan. 2008. "Worldwide electricity used in data centers." Environmental Research Letters. vol. 3, no. 034008. September 23. <http:// stacks.iop.org/1748-9326/3/034008 >. Taylor, Cody, and Jonathan Koomey. 2008. Estimating energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of Internet advertising. Working paper for IMC2. February 14. <http://imc2.com/Documents/CarbonEmissions.pdf>.
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