Between 2005 and 2010, the power consumed by data centers worldwide increased by 56 percent, corresponding to between 1.1 and 1.5 percent of annual global electricity consumption. If ranked as a nation, the world’s data centers would fall in the top 20 for energy use. Additionally, Gartner has estimated that the manufacturing, use, and disposal of information and communications technology generates about two percent of the world's CO2 emissions, as much as worldwide air transport. By 2020, this figure is expected to rise to three percent.

Researchers at HP Labs believe that massive-scale, intelligent infrastructure required to power modern business can and should be sustainable. That starts with the conventional data center, which we are helping transform into the Sustainable Data Center: one that consumes net-zero energy from non-renewable sources like the public electric grid, over its entire lifecycle, from initial resource extraction and manufacturing to operation and end-of-life reclamation.

New technologies that can improve worldwide access to IT services make it possible to deconstruct conventional, wasteful business processes and replace them with new models that have a lower impact on the environment. This potential plays out nearly everywhere you look: in supply chain management, energy grids, building operations, transportation, and many other aspects of modern city life.

At HP Labs, researchers in Sustainability are exploring and modeling the way resources can be utilized in data centers and beyond. Many of the principles and efficiencies identified through this research can, for example, be used to inform planning and design at city-scale. When sustainability guides the development of technology and the rethinking of design and processes, incremental steps and advancements can add up to big-picture gains.

Sustainability Research Projects

Resource Management as a Service

Forecasted increases in the world’s population, along with a growing strain on scarce non-renewable resources and pressure from supply shocks and externalities, will necessitate new business models and infrastructures that are designed, built and operated using the least possible amounts of judiciously chosen materials and energy. Early evidence of such a paradigm shift can already be seen in the rising global investments around topics such as Smart Grid, Smart Buildings, and end-to-end Enterprise Carbon Management Systems.

To accelerate progress in realizing a vision of sustainable future cities, our research explores a holistic framework that uses information technology (IT) to dynamically manage the supply of resources relative to changing societal and organizational demands. We propose demonstrating this IT master plan through an integrated hardware, software, and services solution that can be tailored to manage energy, water, and waste at the scale of buildings, campuses, and cities. Further, in the same manner that application ecosystems have been created for enhanced entertainment and productivity in the consumer space, our resource management platform seeks to facilitate the creation of an ecosystem which widely disseminates energy and sustainability management “apps” in the resource management space. In delivering such an integrated stack for supply-demand management, the over-arching objective is to provide our global stakeholders with the means to minimize the economic costs and mitigate the environmental risks associated with the coming decades of sustained infrastructure growth.

Sustainable Data Center

The Sustainable Datacenter is a datacenter that consumes net zero energy from non-renewable sources like the public electric grid, over its entire lifecycle from initial resource extraction and manufacturing to operation and end-of-life reclamation. This data center satisfies the Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) of the hosted services, while reducing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and emissions. Research thrusts include IT-facility demand management, supply-side management, integrated design and management, and management information systems.