Reducing Emissions in Datacenters

Josh HenretigJosh Henretig, Director
Environmental Sustainability

NOTE: This post by Josh Henretig, Director of Environmental ran today on the Environmental Sustainability team blog and we have reposted the entire entry below.  

062413-1It's no secret that the growth in the data centers that power cloud computing have become increasingly responsible for growth in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, some estimates put the size of the information and communications technology sector at 2 percent of global emissions. At Microsoft we recognize that, because our datacenters represent a significant portion of our environmental footprint, we have a responsibility to reduce the emissions associated with our datacenters.

The good news is that Microsoft researchers have been committed to finding ways to reduce the carbon emissions of our data centers and datacenters around the world, and they have made significant progress. Today, we can use electricity market analytics to increase our use of renewable energy sources in datacenters and reduce our emissions.

Earlier this year, our research team showcased exactly how we can do this at the IEEE Green Technologies Conference 2013 in Denver during a presentation by Conor Kelly of Microsoft Ireland. The work involves analyzing algorithms that rate different criteria on the electric grid, like current, carbon emissions and the rate at which renewable energy is being integrated to power the grid.

This analysis can help us determine the best time to perform our highest-energy-consuming computation, so we can delay moveable computation to times when the grid is being powered by renewable energy sources. By identifying areas of the grid where renewable energy sources are being deployed, we can also move our computation to those locations and utilize those energy sources. That can help us reduce the overall carbon footprint associated with cloud computing.

By using more renewable energy to power our datacenters, our researchers found that we could reduce our carbon emissions by up to 99 percent. That's pretty significant.

We're proud of the progress we have already made to reduce the environmental impact of our data centers, and we're excited to push our commitments even further.

The Microsoft Europe Blog has more detail on this research in a blog post from Fabien Petitcolas, Microsoft's director of innovation for Europe. For more information on the great work our researchers have done, check out previous blog posts on ecosystem modeling andhow Big Data can be used to fight wildfires. You can also follow us on twitter (@Microsoft_Green) for more sustainability news.

Josh Henretig, Director, Environmental Sustainability