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Published: 2022-01-26

Inefficient clouds that devour electricity – new research collaboration between Umeå University and Ericsson

NEWS By 2030, cloud computing worldwide will require nine percent of all electricity supply. Making these facilities more efficient is urgent, but so far researchers have not had access to the systems. Now the Ericsson Research Data Center is opening up to researchers at Umeå University, to do something about energy consumption.

Text: Victoria Skeidsvoll

WCIB - WARA Common Information Bridge, is a new collaborative research project funded by Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program. "We are creating the largest source of cloud behavior data anywhere in the world. This will allow us to start working on how best to develop and make these systems more energy-efficient," says Paul Townend, Associate Professor at the Department of Computing Science at Umeå University and Head of the project. 

Require as much electricity as a city 

Almost everything we’re doing today creates data – and an immense amount of it. We're talking about 2.5 quintillions, (18 zeros) daily, or 44 zettabytes in a year. Most of this data is stored and handled in the "cloud" which means one of approximately eight million data centers in the world. These facilities contain up to a million nodes of servers and require as much electricity as a city of 60,000 people.
Another problem is low utilization. Datacenter facilities, which consume lots of power and produce large amounts of heat, are typically only 20 percent used at any one time. Why? “This is typically because many data center operators simply don’t know when a spike in demand might occur but need to overprovision to ensure they can meet demand and not hurt their reputation”, Paul Townend says.

Unique access to real data

At a time when the demand for electricity is increasing while prices are rising, the situation is acute. The problem? "There’s simply not any up-to-date datasets available to research, thus making it hard for us researchers to develop future solutions”, says Paul Townend.

With Ericsson Research Data Center, he and his research team now have access to a data center with 1,500 users – and it’s live, which is remarkable. “The very few data sets that are available are rarely updated and contain limited information," Townend says.

Pioneers in the field

Paul Townend alongside Research Engineer Jon Leijon, Umeå University, is now providing detailed statistical data with the help of Johan Eker, Principal Researcher at Ericsson Research Data Center.

"We will try to answer questions about the systems and processes of data facilities. For example, we want to look at how much network traffic goes through the switches, how many processors are used, how much disk space, and what temperature and power consumption the system requires," says Jon Leijon.

They are pioneers in developing a unique portal that will make data visible and easily accessible to researchers. “It will let us be able to develop systems that can tweak the settings and, for example, start balancing power consumption with performance,” Paul Townend says. 

The portal will enable research on data-driven cloud computing and will change the reality for many researchers around the world. "In the first phase, the portal is open for WASP researchers who want to develop efficient and reliable solutions to make the best use of energy," Townend says. Ultimately, the portal could open up to researchers worldwide.

For more information, please contact:

Paul Townend
Associate professor