Cloud computing and Internet datacenters underpin modern life, hosting compute, storage, machine learning, and infrastructure services that power online applications and services. We propose a unified laboratory aimed at de-carbonizing the hardware and software ecosystem powering these datacenters and online services.
Trends and barriers
The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector accounts for about 4% of global carbon emissions today, and this number is expected to double in the next decade (Ferreboeuf et al.).
The rapid and continuing deployment of low-carbon, renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, etc) has the potential to decarbonize the operation of datacenters, however the resulting supply of power will exhibit significant variability in time and space. However, ICT equipment, and Internet datacenter systems in particular, assume a highly stable power infrastructure. Further modern datacenter systems have limited abilities to respond to significant power variability.
About a quarter of the total carbon impact of ICT occurs during the mining, manufacturing, and transportation phase of deployment, meaning that a significant portion of a datacenter’s environmental impact has already occurred before the equipment is even turned on. The further deployment of low-carbon energy means that this fraction could increase further, requiring new approaches for amortizing this effect over a longer usable lifespan of equipment. Overcoming the limited deployment lifespans of ICT within datacenters is a key focus of C3-Lab.
Our lab’s research vision aims to enable the dramatic reduction in both the operational and embodied carbon footprint of datacenter systems. We organize these efforts into three complimentary thrusts:
Thrust 1: Design datacenter systems that can adapt to the variability of renewable energy sources.
Thrust 2: Reduce the impact of ICT manufacturing on total datacenter carbon footprint.
Thrust 3: Education. Develop new teachable material on the environmental effect of computing, as well as mitigation techniques at the hardware, software, and systems levels for reducing this effect. Developing new methods to communicate this research to the public is a key effort of C3-Lab.
HotCarbon Workshop 2023
The HotCarbon Workshop on Sustainable Computer Systems Design and Implementation brings together researchers and practitioners in computer and network systems to engage in a lively discussion focused on sustainability throughout the entire lifecycle of modern computing, focusing on both the operational and embodied impact of computer systems.