A Center for Sustainable Cloud Computing


Alliance Announces the First Datacenter Efficiency Label

  • Academia and industry leaders have come together to form the Swiss Datacenter Efficiency Association (SDEA) and announce the first datacenter efficiency label that aims to decarbonize datacenters and significantly reduce energy consumption on data platforms and infrastructures. It has École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) as one of its founding members.
  • The initiative is supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy through the program SwissEnergy.

Davos, January 23, 2020

Among the significant developments at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting today was the announcement of a datacenter energy efficiency label launched by the Swiss Datacenter Efficiency Association (SDEA). SDEA represents an unprecedented alliance between academia and industry leaders to significantly reduce datacenter energy consumption and decarbonize datacenters around the world. Initiated by industry association digitalswitzerland and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), SDEA has EcoCloud (EPFL), HPE, Green IT Switzerland, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU), and the Swiss Datacenter and Telecommunication Associations, Vigiswiss and ASUT, among its founding members. SDEA is also being promoted through SwissEnergy, a program run by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy.

The label will be awarded for excellence in energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of datacenters by measuring their carbon footprint based on three main efficiency criteria:

  • The hosting infrastructure accounting for the end-to-end energy flow, from ingest to output, including recycling capabilities of output energy;
  • The IT infrastructure quantifying the efficiency of the processing, communication and storage equipment;
  • The IT workloads accounting for the efficiency of IT usage for datacenter services.

Formation of the association was imperative considering the surge in electricity consumption in datacenters consequent to the world going digital. Current projections indicate that energy consumption by datacenters could increase from roughly 2% of electricity worldwide currently to 8% by 2030, which calls for urgent action by the industry. SDEA aims to play a significant role in that process by helping datacenters reduce their overall energy consumption by up to 70%. This is a realistic goal, as illustrated by ten pilot runs involving operations of several top brands in Switzerland. Legislative action is likely to follow to enact new laws to govern energy efficiency for new datacenters. Ultimately, the SDEA initiative could have a global impact with internationalization of the concept at world forums.

The scope and character of SDEA is expected to change and expand as the IT sector advances. With conventional silicon technologies having reached a saturation point, energy-efficient datacenters are crucial for sustainable IT development. That is where SDEA could play a pivotal role.

As observed by SDEA’s president Babak Falsafi, Professor in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences (EPFL) and founding director of EcoCloud:

“We are witnessing a paradigm shift in IT where conventional silicon technologies that historically resulted in doubling in chip density and efficiency every two years for five decades have reached their physical limits. As a result, future IT performance growth can only come from building more infrastructure, including datacenters spanning from the edge with closer proximity to data sources and real-time constraints all the way to the hyperscale public clouds. This label is timely and will facilitate the adoption of renewable energy in datacenters with quantifiable metrics.”

The label will be instrumental for countries like Switzerland where future growth in IT is likely to come from the edge clouds with infrastructure for data analytics closer to data sources and users. The emergence of digital technologies with real-time constraints and 5G networks will lead to the proliferation of edge infrastructure. Post-Moore datacenters will not only bring in custom AI technologies that are vertically integrated in hardware and software but also bring in integrated hosting infrastructure including technologies for renewable energy and cooling that work hand-in-hand with IT software and hardware.

With the accent on shifting away from conventional power-hungry datacenters, the future lies in using renewable energy to usher in a sustainable ecosystem for datacenters. This is an area that EcoCloud has focused on since its inception.

About EcoCloud

EcoCloud, an industrial/academic consortium at EPFL, is the only academic center investigating sustainable cloud technologies. For more, visit ecocloud.ch.