The Coming ‘C’ Change in Datacenters

By Edward J. Lucente

June 15, 2010

Recently, I was at the Uptime Institute in New York and had several conversations about carbon dioxide (CO2) management for datacenters. Energy consumed by US datacenters in 2010 will reach 3 percent of overall US energy production. This will double in about five years given that the annual growth in datacenter energy consumption is 10 percent. Increases in datacenter CO2 emissions should mirror energy consumption increases since most datacenters will be unable to convert to greener, cleaner, renewable energy sources.

The good folks at the Uptime Institute estimate that datacenter CO2 emissions will quadruple between 2010 and 2020; also that annual global datacenter CO2 emissions are already on par with the CO2 emissions of the airline industry, or even entire countries. Maybe we should put datacenters in airplanes and keep all the CO2 flying around.

Annual CO2 emission comparisons (Mt = thousands of metric tons)

US datacenters   170 Mt
Argentina                142 Mt
Netherlands           146 Mt
Malaysia                  178 Mt

The IT professionals that I spoke with are becoming familiar with their datacenters’ “carbon footprint.” They understand that by managing CO2 emissions they will be better prepared for existing or future greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations. (GHG also includes water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.)

Also, I noticed that a number of application software companies have sprouted up to promote carbon management information systems that deal with issues around CO2 compliance standards, CO2 inventory baselining, and financial management of carbon allowances and credits. Certainly, innovative application solutions will be needed to help datacenter professionals and executives navigate through CO2 management challenges associated with:

  • Compliance.
  • Conservation.
  • Complexity.
  • Cost.
  • Competitiveness.

The federal government will be among the early adopters of carbon management software. The US federal government’s demand for carbon management software is expected to grow from its current level of $36 million to $294 million by 2017, according to a new report by Pike Research.

US Legislation

In the United States, government regulations concerning CO2 include the EPA’s GHG Reporting Rule and the pending Kerry-Lieberman bill, known as “cap and trade.” Under the EPA’s GHG Reporting Rule, suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions are required to submit annual reports to EPA. This would include the largest datacenters, and there is a concern that over time this floor of 25,000 metric tons would be reduced by government. Currently, over a dozen US states are contesting this new EPA law in court, so stay tuned.

The passage of the Kerry-Lieberman bill in 2010 is less certain, especially now with the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is potentially far reaching. If passed, it would require many businesses to measure, monitor, or manage GHG offsets, abatement projects, GHG sources, GHG reporting, carbon prices, and various protocols. This could be a nightmare for datacenter professionals. Just the bill’s preamble scares me, especially the “for other purposes” language:

To secure the energy future of the United States, to provide incentives for the domestic production of clean energy technology, to achieve meaningful pollution reductions, to create jobs, and for other purposes.

Call for Action

I tend to believe that government mandates are less efficient delivery mechanisms than programs developed through private industry and self-regulation; what concerns me is that I have not seen the IT industry take a more proactive, self-regulatory role with regard to managing and minimizing CO2 emissions. Consider these questions:

  • Why should the IT industry wait around for government standards on CO2 emissions?
  • Shouldn’t datacenter professionals control and develop their own CO2 management information systems since they understand best their unique IT and business environments?
  • Why wouldn’t a CEO, Corporate Sustainability Officer (CSO), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) executive, or CIO want to take more control of their destiny?

As mentioned, IT shops can choose from various application solutions and turn to energy efficiency consultants for additional guidance. Datacenters that reduce their CO2 emissions will also reduce their energy bills (OpEx) and total cost of ownership.

I suggest, therefore, that the IT industry create its own “carbon efficiency consortium” to establish carbon management information standards and solutions aimed at reducing CO2 emissions in datacenters. This would be an industry-led, self-regulatory body that provides thought leadership on CO2 management and shares best practices and recommendations for carbon management.

My bet is that datacenter professionals who develop internal management information systems for carbon management now will achieve significant cost savings ahead of their competitors. It’s not just about a greener planet; it’s about building a sustainable and competitive IT and industry advantage.

About the Author

Edward J. Lucente is vice president of business development at Data Center Rebates, Inc., an IT efficiency consultancy based in Carlsbad, Calif., whose professional services focus on datacenter energy efficiency (DCEE), leasing integrated with technology refreshes, and negotiation of IT energy rebates. Please feel free to email comments to

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate scientists the ability to use machine learning to identify e Read more…

By Rob Farber

Mellanox Reacts to Activist Investor Pressures in Letter to Shareholders

March 16, 2018

Activist investor Starboard Value has been exerting pressure on Mellanox Technologies to increase its returns. In response, the high-performance networking company on Monday, March 12, published a letter to shareholders outlining its proposal for a May 2018 extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of shareholders and highlighting its long-term growth strategy and focus on operating margin improvement. Read more…

By Staff

Quantum Computing vs. Our ‘Caveman Newtonian Brain’: Why Quantum Is So Hard

March 15, 2018

Quantum is coming. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough. Within 10 to 12 years, we’re told, special-purpose quantum systems will enter the commercial realm. Assuming this happens, we can also assume that quantum will, over extended time, become increasingly general purpose as it delivers mind-blowing power. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Achieve Optimal Performance at Scale with High Performance Fabrics for HPC

High Performance Computing (HPC) is unlocking a new era of speed and productivity to fuel business transformation. Rapid advancements in HPC capabilities are helping organizations operate faster and more effectively than ever, but in today’s fast-paced marketplace, a new generation of technologies is required to reach greater scalability and cost-efficiency. Read more…

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise IT in its willingness to outsource computational power. The m Read more…

By Chris Downing

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Stephen Hawking, Legendary Scientist, Dies at 76

March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking passed away at his home in Cambridge, England, in the early morning of March 14; he was 76. Born on January 8, 1942, Hawking was an English theo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hyperion Tackles Elusive Quantum Computing Landscape

March 13, 2018

Quantum computing - exciting and off-putting all at once - is a kaleidoscope of technology and market questions whose shapes and positions are far from settled. Read more…

By John Russell

Part Two: Navigating Life Sciences Choppy HPC Waters in 2018

March 8, 2018

2017 was not necessarily the best year to build a large HPC system for life sciences say Ari Berman, VP and GM of consulting services, and Aaron Gardner, direct Read more…

By John Russell

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SciNet Launches Niagara, Canada’s Fastest Supercomputer

March 5, 2018

SciNet and the University of Toronto today unveiled "Niagara," Canada's most-powerful supercomputer, comprising 1,500 dense Lenovo ThinkSystem SD530 high-perfor Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

V100 Good but not Great on Select Deep Learning Aps, Says Xcelerit

November 27, 2017

Wringing optimum performance from hardware to accelerate deep learning applications is a challenge that often depends on the specific application in use. A benc Read more…

By John Russell

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in wha Read more…

By John Russell

World Record: Quantum Computer with 46 Qubits Simulated

December 18, 2017

Scientists from the Jülich Supercomputing Centre have set a new world record. Together with researchers from Wuhan University and the University of Groningen, Read more…

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This