IBM scores green cloud patent
IBM Labs announced Friday that the company has been awarded a patent for a method that allows datacentre operators to dynamically allocate compute and networking resources to lower-powered or underutilised systems. The company says the invention will help “green” cloud computing and reduce the energy consumption of datacentres, and allow service providers the ability to offer consumers a trade-off between performance and energy efficiency.
Submitted in September 2011, the patent (US 8,549,125B2, “Environmentally Sustainable Computing In A Distributed Computer Network”) which is the company’s third variation on a “dynamic resource allocation” theme, allows cloud service providers to identify services or deployments that can be implemented with the lowest level of environmental impact across the datacentre.
The cloud provider then routes the requests to the network devices and servers, down to the code functions that will process that service to consume the least amount of electricity.
“The efficient, distributed cloud computing model has made it possible for people to bank, shop, trade stocks and do many other things online, but the massive datacentres that enable these apps can include many thousands of energy-consuming systems,” said Keith Walker, master inventor at IBM and co-inventor on the recently awarded patent. “We have invented a way for cloud service providers to more efficiently manage their datacentres and, as a result, significantly reduce their environmental impact.”
Walker said the idea for the patent came from IBM’s experience in buying from energy companies: “They scale their service and price according to the energy – and kind of energy – they make available. For example, by paying a little more, they can guarantee a certain percentage of energy will come from renewable sources. Why not do this for cloud services?”
Proponents of cloud technology often suggest increased cloud computing adoption has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by consolidating IT infrastructure in massive energy efficient datacentres. Researchers from Harvard University, Imperial College and Reading University recently explored cloud computing’s impact on lowering GHGs and found that if 80 per cent of organisations used cloud-based email, CRM and collaboration software the they could save 11.2 TWh annually, or a quarter of London’s annual energy usage.
The recently patented method would effectively allow cloud service providers to offer consumers a trade-off between performance and energy efficiency in an easily automatable way. It won’t necessarily make the datacentre “greener,” as that’s largely dependent on the energy sources, but it’s a step in that direction. A schematic describing the patent can be found below: