Key Scientific Challenges Blog Series: Green Computing

Feb 17, 2010

On Wednesday we announced the kick off our 2010 Key Scientific Challenges Program. It is a thought-provoking competition that encourages top graduate students to help invent the future of the Internet by working with Yahoo Labs to investigate and test their ideas in the real world. The Key Scientific Challenges Program focuses on a variety of scientific issues that we believe are central to developing a better understanding of the Web and the foundational technologies that will accelerate innovation. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be offering a series of guest blog posts here on Yodel Anecdotal that offer a quick overview of these scientific challenge areas from a Yahoo (or Yahoos) who have expertise in the field and can explain how their research can have an impact on making the Web more engaging, relevant and powerful. Today’s our maiden voyage, and the first guest blog post comes from Scott Noteboom. Scott is one of the foremost experts on building data centers that makes it possible for Yahoo to run some of the fastest, most popular Web sites in the world. He’s also leading the charge to make Yahoo’s data centers as efficient as possible, and we’ve asked him to talk about a new challenge area we just added to the Key Scientific Challenges Program this year, green computing. Thanks, The Key Scientific Challenges Team at Yahoo Labs Key Scientific Challenges, Entry #1: Green Computing By Scott Noteboom Increasing demand for the Web services and applications that have become such a central part of our lives (like email and Web video, just to name a few) is also causing a steady rise in the need for more and more computing power to make all of theses services work and work well. When we talk about computing power, we’re often talking specifically about data centers, buildings that house thousands and thousands of servers working 24-hours-a-day to make sure that the Web sites you want are there on your screen and on your phone when you want them. Of course, while the performance of servers is improving almost everyday, making all kinds of new innovations possible, they also require a lot of power. They need so much power that a 2007 joint report by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory revealed that energy consumption from data centers had doubled between 2000 and 2006 and was expected to double again by 2011. The report further calculated that there would be huge energy and money losses without increases in the efficiency of running and cooling these centers (because servers produce a lot of heat). Recognizing both the problem and the opportunity that this presents, Yahoo has embraced its role as a leading environmentally sustainable company by addressing efficiency in our data centers head on. We announced in June 2009 that we’d be committing to a significant reduction in the carbon intensity of our data centers by 2014. And to accomplish this goal, we’ve developed several innovations, including a new high-efficiency data center design that reduces our cooling load and increases utilization in our data centers, increasing the productivity of our servers, and squeezing as much productivity as possible out of every last kilowatt-hour. These efforts have gotten us some recognition and hopefully will inspire more innovation because making the world’s data centers more efficient is also an important element to tackling global warming. Everyone wants to see innovation on the Web and what it makes possible for us in our everyday lives continue to flourish, and that’s where innovation behind the scenes in data centers is so important. By making data centers more efficient, we can make sure that future innovations that make the Internet more and more powerful for all of us will also be environmentally sustainable. This is by no means a pipe dream, which is why we’re so excited to be part of the Key Scientific Challenges team recruiting some of the best young minds in the world to learn from our experiences and accelerate their own research and ideas. A study by The Climate Group entitled Smart 2020 predicts that, while greenhouse gas emissions from the Internet industry will rise to approximately 1.3 gigatons of CO2, the combined impact of smart grid, smart logistics, smart buildings and videoconferencing could reduce emissions by approximately 7.8 tons. We’re very excited about the next big ideas that will continue to bring radical improvements in energy efficiency and truly green computing. If you’re interested in learning more about the Key Scientific Challenges Program visit the site, and if you’ve got an idea for research into green computing, get working on a proposal. Submissions are due March 5th. Follow the KSC Blog Series on Yodel: