The goal of DC4Cities is to let existing and new data centres become energy adaptive
Data centres need to be close to users
Technical questions are related to the very tight response time constraints that many applications hosted in data centres need to keep up with. When data centres are heavily remotized, the network paths in between data centres and users introduce latencies which are everything but irrelevant for many interactive or distributed applications (actual examples in the proposal). The business community, moreover, raises questions about availability (remotized data centres are often fully automated and unattended), security, exposure to natural events threatening operational safety. Finally, legal issues around data privacy and ownership, and geopolitical factors preventing data hosting outside the country or in some specific regions are frequent showstoppers to remotized deployment. All these reasons justify a technical effort to find solutions, helping to bring data centres closer to users without giving up the sustainability advantages offered by strong remotization.
Data Centres users are mostly located in Cities
Bringing data centres closer to users means bringing them into the cities. This raises a scale problem, since the trend is consolidation into less but very big data centres, a model not compliant with the need of urban location. The model must thus shift towards a federation of more, smaller “city friendly” data centres, possibly sharing some energy management governance. This model is not currently supported by existing technical components; neither has it been experimented and evaluated in real urban contexts.
Eco-friendly Data Centres can benefit Smart Cities
Data centres must become “good citizens” of Smart Cities: they need to be extremely efficient in both energy and emissions to avoid degrading the city and surrounding environment. Smart Cites coordinated with local renewable energy providers can participate in micro-grids with limited capacity that, if appropriately integrated with their consumers (like eco friendly data centres), can be very effective in renewable energy utilization. Moreover small/medium federated data centres are easier to fit into energy efficient and self-sufficient city buildings (for instance with solar roof) with limited impact on the urban environment, thanks to their limited size and consequently low energy consumption.
Europe needs new metrics for data centre energy efficiency
As comparisons with other technology domains can show, data centre efficiency metrics are still not duly describing some key indicators. They have historically been looking at performance factors. In the recent years, we’ve started to see a metric research addressing efficiency topics; however they’ve been one-minded to “static” efficiency indicators tied to data centre facilities, building efficiency, cooling and logistic consumption. It’s fundamental to extend these metrics, taking into account operational efficiency factors, to evaluate how the available energy is used to accomplish the data centre job, and the data centre ability to maximize the usage of clean energy sources, keeping emissions as low as possible without breaking its performance commitments.
Data centre can benefit from interacting with Smart Grids and vice versa
A fundamental point for optimizing the effectiveness of a Smart Grid is the ability to balance the fluctuating renewable power supply with the varying electricity demands at any time and at any point in the grid. Data centres are big energy consumers, so they can give a significant contribution to this global balance in the Grid – so both, data centres and smart grid can benefit from increased stability and reduced cost in providing/consuming electricity. Ongoing research initiatives need to be extended and integrated inside a wider energy governance model of eco-friendly data centres.