Moore and Less: Moore’s Law, Less Carbon

Friday, September 25, 2009 |

By John Skinner
Alternate Board Member of Climate Savers Computing
Director of Eco-Technology Marketing at Intel Corporation

Some of my prior blogs have discussed the opportunity for society to solve some of our environmental problems, by more effectively harnessing technology. The continuous advancement in semiconductor technology has enabled computers to become continuously more energy efficient. As computers themselves become more energy efficient, society has opportunities to utilize computers in ways that achieve net-positive environmental outcomes, including the displacement of carbon-intensive activities with lower carbon activities. New academic research is emerging which helps clarify some of these opportunities.

I recently had the opportunity to read 3 new whitepapers Dr. Jonathan Koomey, research scientist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Yale University. You should be aware that while Intel and Microsoft provided financial support for this particular set of research, Dr. Koomey’s papers represent his own views. This trilogy of papers is noteworthy in that they discuss 3 inter-related trends, which I think have implications for how society manages its stewardship of both technology and the environment.

Trend #1: Continuous advancement of computational energy efficiency, in terms of Computations per Watt of energy used.

Trend #2: The consolidation of computers into powerful, large scale computing utility centers, which can be accessed anywhere, a.k.a. Cloud Computing.

Trend #3: The effective harnessing of computer technologies to achieve improved net environmental outcomes, including Carbon Reduction and De-materialization.

“Assessing Trends in the Electrical Efficiency of Computation Over Time” outlines the forces, including Moore’s Law, that have driven decades of historical, and expected future improvements, in the energy efficiency of computers.

“Assessing Trends Over Time in Performance, Cost, and Energy Use of Servers” outlines the technological and economic forces that are driving the consolidation of computing resources into large scale, highly dense mega-data centers, a.k.a. cloud computing.

“The Energy and Climate Change Impact of Different Music Delivery Methods” studies how society is harnessing new computing technologies, including mega-data centers, for economic and convenience reasons, while creating interesting environmental net outcomes.

Dr, Koomey’s research is both illuminating and provocative. Some questions for continued discussion and ongoing research include: What are the environmental consequences of substituting one type of technology with another? Is technological progress a threat to, or ally of, the environment? How does the answer depend on the technology, and how it is utilized? What role can organizations like the Climate Savers Computing Initiative play, in helping society find the answers?

Among other places, Dr. Koomey’s latest research can be found here. I encourage you to read all three (or at least one) of the papers, then come back and join the conversation on these topics, by posting a comment below.

1 comment:

Energy Monitors said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm trying to find information on energy saving monitor and this has definitely helped me in this process.

Post a Comment