Yahoo! searches for energy efficiency
Chris Page, Director of Climate and Energy Strategy at Yahoo! shares the company's plan for cutting CO2 emissions.
When you visit a web site or look up something online, each click of the mouse makes a little more work for a place called a data center.
"This is where the real work of the Internet happens," says Chris Page. "And what you're basically hearing is all that cooling energy. You've got the fans running across the servers, which look like these humming boxes. They're each about the size of a pizza box. And they're in these racks. And the racks are in these aisles. And there are fans that suck the cold air from the air-handling units through the front of the servers and then spit the hot air out the back."
Data centers also emit greenhouse gases. And, as Yahoo's Director of Climate and Energy Strategy, it's Chris Page's job to find ways to cut those emissions.
Page says in 2007, Yahoo! rendered itself carbon neutral by buying offsets against its footprint.
And now they're moving towards zeroing out carbon offsets. "The goal now is a 40 percent reduction in carbon intensity of our data centers by 2014," said Page. "Effectively what that means is we'll be providing the same amount of services or better in 2014 than we are today, but with 40 percent less carbon."
According to Page, Yahoo! discovered that the majority of its carbon footprint came from powering its data centers, which serves 500 million users worldwide, "To give you an example: when Michael Jackson passed away recently we had 800,000 clicks on the front-page story about that within a ten minute time period."
Page explains that cloud computing and virtualization will help with capacity issues, "Historically, when you look at capacity in a server, you have to design a cathedral for Easter or Christmas. People are going to be using that way all the time. It's Easter and Christmas only you don't know what day of the year Easter and Christmas is going to fall on.
"Innovations like cloud computing and virtualization give us an opportunity to eliminate the extra space, to cram all the people, all the Catholics and Protestants, into that church, turn it into a 24/7 use and really maximize that resource, maybe shut the lights off somewhere else when we don't need it."
Internet use in America is only going to increase CO2 output says Page, "In 2007, the EPA noted that over the past five years, energy consumption from data centers in the United States had doubled and was 60 billion kilowatt hours for the country. And we're expecting within the next five years to go up to 100 billion kilowatt hours.
"Historically with data centers, people really haven't paid very close attention to electricity, so you wound up having sort of the equivalent of your mom's wood panel station wagon, very reliable, but not necessarily designed for efficient miles per gallon.
"What we're looking at in the next generation of data centers that Yahoo's trying to build is really something closer to the Tesla. Still very efficient, even more reliable, and looking for ways to reduce the waste throughout the system as much as possible."
One of Yahoo!'s new data centers will rely on its geographic location to help cut energy use says Page, "It will look a little bit like a chicken coop when it's built. And it is oriented to take advantage of the microclimate in the area. Upstate New York can be a very chilly place. We're going to be relying 100 percent of the time on free cooling, which will drastically improve the efficiency of it."
Page thinks there will be tremendous developments in efforts to get cleaner energy in the next couple of years, "The impact that all this technology will have in other areas, making transportation smarter, making buildings smarter so they're cooling themselves in a much more efficient way. All those things together, smart logistics, smart buildings and the smart grid will decrease carbon emissions by 7.8 gigatons. So the contribution of the ICT industry will be 1.3 gigatons. The reduction will be 7.8 gigatons."
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