New Algorithms Reduce the Carbon Cost of Cloud Computing

Software redistributes tasks among networked data centers to optimize energy efficiency

3 min read
New Algorithms Reduce the Carbon Cost of Cloud Computing
Photo: Jon Feingersh/Getty Images

The computing cloud may feel intangible to users, but it has a definite physical form and a corresponding carbon footprint. Facebook’s data centers, for example, were responsible for the emission of 298 000 metric tonsof carbon dioxide in 2012, the equivalent of roughly 55 000 cars on the road. Computer scientists at Trinity College Dublin and IBM Research Dublin have shown that there are ways to reduce emissions from cloud computing, although their plan would likely cause some speed reductions and cost increases. By developing a group of algorithms, collectively called Stratus, the team was able to model a worldwide network of connected data centers and predict how best to use them to keep carbon emissions low while still getting the needed computing done and data delivered.

“The overall goal of the work was to see load coming from different parts of the globe [and] spread it out to different data centers to achieve objectives like minimizing carbon emissions or having the lowest electricity costs,” says Donal O’Mahony, a computer science professor at Trinity.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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