What is keeping data-center operators up at night? This is a conversation I recently had with Jen Huffstetler, chief product sustainability officer, Intel, as we discussed the company’s vision to deliver sustainable computing for a sustainable future, something that will balance economic growth, environmental health, as well as social wellbeing to improve the lives of every person on the planet.
As we explore how the data center is changing and what technologies can help, perhaps it’s even more important to consider what’s on the minds of data-center managers today.
All about AI
Like many workers and industries today, data-center operators are contemplating their next move when it comes to AI (artificial intelligence), as it touches every aspect of the business. Interestingly, at the same time they are also wrestling with how much energy AI is going to consume.
“While Gartner might predict by 2025 AI will consume more energy than the entire human workforce, I think we can do better than that,” insists Huffstetler. “I think when you go back to efficiently utilizing the resources you have, rightsizing the workload to the hardware, we are not going to have an exponential increase in the AI energy consumption.”
Intel has been working on how to simplify AI to help enterprises improve their businesses, not the world’s data, but their data. For AI workloads, because Intel has built-in accelerators, those 4th Gen Xeon processors can deliver 80% higher inference throughput over the competition1, according to Huffstetler.
Running Out of Power and Space
The big challenge here is data-center customers are running out of power and they are running out of space—and that is also something Intel is looking to solve.
“Looking globally, energy is in crisis in some parts of the world,” says Huffstetler. “Costs have gone up to 2x, as reported by the Intl. Energy Agency2, over the last five years. Even in certain localities and economies where they are betting their local economy on data centers, they are realizing they consume ever increasing amounts of resources in their local communities. So, lowering the energy consumption and/or getting more work done in each and every one of those data centers is foundational for the future of society.”
Intel has taken a goal of 10x energy efficiency in this decade for clients and server processors by 20303. Across a variety of workloads, Intel’s 4th Gen Xeon processor on average is providing 75% more performance4 and 50% greater performance per watt4 over the competition, according to Huffstetler. This is no small endeavor. Intel is on a mission to make a difference.
Simply, what Huffstetler explains, is that means for your company’s environmental footprint is a 20% emissions (kg CO2e) savings as well as a 20% total cost of ownership cost savings.
Other Mounting Challenges
Of course, there are other growing considerations for today’s data-center managers today that need be considered. Some of these include meeting customer needs and hitting the cost targets set by the CFO or new stakeholders like the chief sustainability officer asking how they are going to lower the carbon footprint, says Huffstetler.
At the same time, we are seeing a notable rise in regulatory changes and the evolution of workloads. This then begs the question, what should a data-center manager do to address all of this?
“I think it simply comes down to efficient utilization of resources,” says Huffstetler. “We go back to the three-tier: the silicon, the software, and the data center level. I think the first two places, data-center operators can focus on are making sure they are measuring their energy consumption, that they are looking at the utilization, and that they are identifying whether they are utilizing software tools to help them lower the power consumption of those solutions.”
What Comes Next
At the end of the day, AI and other emerging technologies will continue to rise to help all businesses do better work, but we will need to consider how to keep data centers humming along as efficiently as possible.
“Digital infrastructure is foundational to everything that we do, from healthcare, to transportation, to airline travel, to monitoring traffic lights in our communities,” says Huffstetler. “We really have to make sure we are building these future data centers with the most efficient technologies and that we are most efficiently utilizing the resources.”
To do this, she recommends thinking about your role in this digital optimization era, consider how the hardware is consuming energy, and then right-size the workloads to the hardware, ensuring they are well utilized.
Finally, she says, “AI is going to be a game changer, and if you are not already utilizing it to improve your business, think of the first small use case where you can use it to even just monitoring traffic and optimizing the CPU frequency to do it with one of our tools. Those are the things you can do to have an impact both for your business and for the planet today.”
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