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Alcatel-Lucent: the IT industry needs to improve power efficiency

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March 11, 2013

An Alcatel-Lucent funded study suggests that the IT industry needs to work on improving power efficiency to help reduce its unrelenting demand for electricity.

The report says that even if it does, by 2020 it will still be responsible for about four percent of the world's greenhouse gas output.

The assessment, conducted by BIO Intelligence Services, reveals that the four percent outcome is something of a best case scenario. Its sobering disclosure is that without better efficiency measures, the IT and communications sectors would generate nearly 330 gigatonnes of Co2 emissions by 2020.

With improved efficiency measures instead, output would rather be 1.43 gigatonnes of Co2, a compounded annual growth rate of just six per cent, which is well below the adoption of IT and the rate of growth of Internet traffic on a global basis.

As the study points out, 330 Gt worth of greenhouse gas emissions would have the technology sector generating seven times the global greenhouse emission target for 2020.

It's more than ten times the 2010 emissions from energy consumption as documented at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In other words, the IT sector has to find new ways to reduce its carbon footprint, if for no other reason than continuing to follow its current trajectory would make the availability of energy, not just emissions, a growth constraint.

The worst case scenario is based on a high-end network traffic report by Bell Labs, in which 2020's total global telecommunications traffic would reach 400 times its level in 2007, and an absolute growth in power per user to more than 100 watts.

If the study is accurate, achieving these necessary power efficiencies will be a challenge-- “The improvements that are possible in current technologies are expected to slow and then stop by the year 2017”, the report suggests, which means that new technologies and efficiencies will soon be needed.

But rest assured, it's not all that gloomy: if the technology sector can stay within the “four percent of greenhouse emissions” target, the study's authors believe that IT and communications will ultimately save more emissions than they contribute.

However, not all of the energy efficiencies need new technologies, the paper states. For example, infrastructure sharing – anathema to many mobile carriers, and in fact only common under either financial or regulatory pressure – is an obvious way to save power.

Cloud computing is also treated favourably by the study, which says that it can reduce Co2 emissions by up to 90 percent for small deployments, falling to a best-case scenario of 60 percent for deployments in the 10,000-seat range.

But the key question revolves around traffic growth predictions, since these are a fundamental variable in the study. How realistic is it to predict that 2020 network traffic could be 400 times 2007 traffic?

If we use Cisco's Visual Networking Index as a benchmark, the Bell Labs traffic growth forecast appears to be very optimistic. Maybe too optimistic in fact. The monthly traffic recorded for 2007 in the company's 2008 VNI was around 6,500 PB per month, and the current forecast is for global IP traffic to pass 106,000 PB per month by 2016.

If growth from 2016 to 2020 maintained that 37.12 percent CAGR, 2020 traffic would reach 378,000 PB per month – around 59 times the 2007 traffic, far short of the 400-fold increase that Alcatel-Lucent predicts as the maximum growth rate.

But the study does provide a metric that can be applied back to the Cisco-based prediction-- that Co2 emission on a per-byte basis. The high-end forecast is for traffic to reach around 6.2 x 1010 Terabytes per year.

In a nutshell, the short version is that on the same power curve, if traffic reached the extended Cisco VNI-based forecast, emissions would reach 42 Gigatonnes rather than 330, without efficiency strategies.

That's still a considerable emission growth, and still well ahead of what's desirable, since the global target is for just 45 Gigatonnes of emissions from electricity consumption.

In other IT industry news

Earlier this morning, software maker Atlantis confirmed that it has updated its ILIO solution, which manages the storage of virtual desktops in data centres, in a manner that virtualized servers run entirely in memory.

Atlantis' ILIO Persistent VDI 4.0 lets Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View customers run virtual desktops in-memory using RAM as primary storage, making the virtual desktops cost less and actually run faster than physical PCs.

The company claims that it delivers a better-than-PC user experience at an infrastructure cost of less than $300 per desktop, and the deployment is fully automated.

However, its technology isn't totally disk-free-- it still benefits from the performance of local server RAM, but at the same time it maintains a real-time optimized backup system using a small amount of shared SAN/NAS storage to ensure data protection and availability.

Atlantis Computing is a privately-held company founded by CEO Chetan Venkatesh almost ten years ago. He ran the company until December 2009 when Bernard Harguindeguy was brought in as the new CEO. Venkatesh became CTO.

ILIO Persistent VDI 4.0 has these features, according to the company:

  • In-memory storage provides 12-second boot time, near-instant application launches and desktop search results.
  • Because all desktops run on RAM, the amount of storage traffic sent on the network is drastically reduced.
  • Push-button automated installation, configuration, sizing and datastore creation for thousands of virtual desktops across multiple racks of servers.
  • Virtual machines are automatically created and registered as NFS data stores that are ready to use by Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View provisioning tools, or by ILIO Fast Clone, to complete the desktop provisioning process.
  • ILIO Fast Clone can create new full clones of persistent virtual desktops in as little as 5 seconds per desktop and with no storage traffic.
  • The technology involves context-aware processing of IO operations in real-time at the NTFS file system and block levels to reduce the amount of traffic sent to storage.

    On the wire inline deduplication in real-time, eliminating up to 95 percent of the blocks before reaching storage is also another feature, as is compressing the optimized blocks before writing them to memory.

    Atlantis claims it has more than 200 clients who have bought a quarter of a million licenses, more than 100,000 in 2012 alone. It said it tripled the number of customers in 2012 and quadrupled its bookings over two years.

    Source: Alcatel-Lucent.

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