Google trains artificial intelligence to slash data centre energy by 40%

Tech giant Google has taken a "phenomenal step forward" in its efforts to drive energy efficiency, after developing artificial intelligence (AI) that has reduced energy consumption at its data centres by 40%.

Google’s data centres, although powered by renewables, still consume vast amounts of energy during cooling processes.

Over the past 10 years, Google has developed the AI system using the ‘DeepMind’ research company to live test a system of neural networks – computer systems modelled on the human brain – that have led to a more efficient and adaptive framework for data centre management.

DeepMind has managed to train these neural networks to predict the temperature and pressure outputs within the centres, 60 minutes in advance before establishing the appropriate requirements to lower output and energy consumption.

The system not only delivered 40% cuts to energy consumption, but also reduced Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) – the ratio of total building energy use to IT energy use – by as much as 15%. Google claims that the system established the lowest PUE the site had ever seen.

A blog post by Google’s reads: “The implications are significant for Google’s data centres, given its potential to greatly improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions overall. This will also help other companies who run on Google’s cloud to improve their own energy efficiency.

“While Google is only one of many data centre operators in the world, many are not powered by renewable energy as we are. Every improvement in data centre efficiency reduces total emissions into our environment and with technology like DeepMind’s, we can use machine learning to consume less energy and help address one of the biggest challenges of all — climate change.”

By switching to renewables and looking to lower energy consumption, Google has been able to achieve 3.5 times more computing power from the same amount of energy compared to five years ago.

The company is planning to roll the system out more broadly and is actively encouraging other data centres and industrial system operators to adopt the framework, which will be released in an upcoming publication. Google also hopes that the technology could be used to improve power plant conversion efficiency – which the company is already planning in Alabama – and reducing semiconductor manufacturing footprints.

Data centre of attention

For tech companies, the dynamic environments of data centres can make them difficult to operate efficiently because each centre usually operates on a unique system – this means a custom-tuned energy efficiency model that works for one data centre may not be applicable for another.

But this challenge hasn’t stopped major technology companies investing in ways to improve data centre efficiency. Tech giant Microsoft wants to combat the growth and electricity consumption of its data centres, by adding more clean sources to its energy mix in an attempt to reach a 60% renewables target “early in the next decade”.

Facebook, meanwhile, has announced plans for a new data centre to be built in Ireland which will run on 100% renewable energy using the country’s ‘robust’ wind resources. Continuing on the renewables front, US financial services firm Bloomberg recently announced a deal to power 5% of its main New York data centre through a 2.9MW solar plant.

Matt Mace

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