When most people think of greentech products, computer memory probably doesn’t come to mind.
The world’s voracious appetite for data, however, will push it to the forefront, argues Jim Elliott, a vice president of marketing at Samsung Electronics. Samsung remains the number one manufacturer of DRAM, used to temporarily store data in computers, and flash memory, used to store data permanently.
The Internet generates 31 exabytes, or 31 quintillion bytes, of data a month. Google ran out of memory space for around 80 minutes when Google+ launched, he said. DRAM demand will likely grow six times between 2010 and 2015, with new shipments hitting 1,266 petabytes that year.
DRAM, don’t forget, is only temporary storage: the figure doesn’t include persistent storage devices like flash or drives. With 1,266 petabytes, or 1.2 exabytes, you'd almost have enough memory to store a digital version of the Library of Congress 1,000 times over.
Green DDR3 memory, an energy-efficient version of standard memory from Samsung, can cut memory power consumption by 86 percent, he says. A 4-gigabit green DDR3 chip needs 14 watts, while a 2-gigabit chip of older memory takes 28 watts. (Note: memory chips are measured in bits, while memory arrays sold into servers get measured in bytes, which are 8x larger.)
Substituting flash memory for hard drives, meanwhile, can cut power for permanent data storage by 70 percent to 80 percent. Combined, green DDR3 and flash can cut a server’s total power consumption by 49 percent. On a power guzzler, that’s like cutting 534 watts down to 275 watts.
There are around 32 million servers in the world. If they all converted to this technology, the world would save 145 terawatt-hours of power per year, Elliot calculates. That’s 11 billion dollars. It is also more than the power consumed by Argentina (111 terawatt-hours), Sweden (137 terawatt-hours) and Thailand (140 terawatt-hours) each year, according to stats from the International Energy Agency.
This switch would also save 100 million tons of carbon dioxide, or the sequestration capacity of 2.6 billion 10-year-old trees.
So IT managers of the world, unite and upgrade your computers for humanity. Again, this is Samsung data and the company lives to sell memory chips, but it is an interesting extrapolation nonetheless. I ran into Elliott, a source from way back, at a CIO Forum sponsored by Dell and Samsung recently. Other interesting stats:
--94.5 percent. That is the efficiency of the power supply designed by Facebook for its servers. As far as Facebook can tell, it’s the world’s most efficient, says Frank Frankovsky, director of hardware design at the social networking site. (See earlier story.) Like Yahoo and Google, Facebook engineers some of its own data center hardware to optimize operations. It has also agreed to freely license its server designs, power supplies, and even overall data center designs under its Open Compute Project. A data center in Oregon built to Open Compute specs consumes 38 percent less power than a normal one.
--2 percent. The total loss in power Facebook experiences because it uses DC, instead of AC, power to run its data center. It converts grid AC to DC at the door of the data center and does not re-convert it to AC again. In traditional data centers, power can be shifted from AC to DC and back again as many as five times. Frankovski says that 11 percent to 17 percent of power can get lost in delivering power the traditional AC way.
Some companies, such as Google, are not believers in the economics of DC power delivery, but Facebook swears by it. GE and ABB have begun to invest more heavily into DC power delivery. The stats over the next few years will help find an answer.
--1.5U. Another fun Open Compute Project fact. The servers measure 1.5U high, right between the standard 1U and 2U design. (A 'U' is 1.75 inches and was reputedly the length of Hammurabi’s pinkie finger.) A 1.5U server channels air better than a 1U, but uses less copper and floor space than a 2U.
--5,000. The number of people that died in the first five months of 2011 in Tehran from pollution-related causes, according to Steve Westly of the Westly Group.
--52. The number of cigarettes a day that you would have to smoke to get the same level of particulate matter in your lungs that you get when breathing the air in Beijing for a day, also according to Westly. This is why Dalian, in Northern China, now calls itself the Breezy Menthol Alternative.
--15 percent. The number of servers in data centers that are entirely idle, says Mike Neil from Microsoft. Unfortunately, these idle servers still draw power. Less than 3 percent of the energy delivered to data centers is used productively, when you factor in air conditioning, lights and unused computing cycles, he adds.
Green IT: it's hot.