The rash – the energy hunger of intelligent data processing
Rapid advances in technology are leading to a rapidly growing need for intelligent, powerful and secure computing: from recognizing patterns in personal music streaming usage, to highly specialized AIs to uncover financial fraud, to deep learning image recognition software that detects cancer and other early-stage diseases detected. However, what economically means a boom in the cloud market is ecologically a heavy burden on the environment. Because with the growing demand for computing power in research, business and everyday life, the consumption of resources and energy, including electricity consumption, to operate the necessary IT infrastructures is also increasing. In addition, there is a significant increase in waste heat from air-cooled computing capacities, which is mainly released into the air – potential that has not yet been sufficiently exploited.
Requirements – Efficient cloud infrastructures for a sustainable digital future
In order to resolve the conflict between high computing power and sustainability, innovative technologies are needed that improve climate balances across sectors. This is achieved by building a decentralized, green cloud infrastructure, converting existing IT infrastructure and developing innovative green IT concepts.
Sustainable technologies such as direct hot water cooling and the reuse of server waste heat can enable green cloud operation. Energy-efficient server cooling enables the waste heat from data centers to be reused, for example to heat buildings or via the connection to local and district heating networks.
With the development of a decentralized infrastructure, energy optimization can also be created in the future beyond the boundaries of a data center. Compute-intensive AI loads can be distributed and processed according to global energy efficiency parameters at locations where e.g. B. renewable energies are available or where there is a demand for waste heat. The realization of this vision requires automated, scalable and robust software solutions that we are continuously working on.
The Role of Partnerships & the Ecosystem
With the help of strong partnerships, synergies to increase the energy efficiency of digital infrastructures can be optimally used. So e.g. B. the connection to heat sinks and efficient use of waste heat possible. In the Cloud&Heat data center in the Eurotheum (Frankfurt), the waste heat is used on site to heat the local offices and conference rooms, the hotel industry and the catering trade. Another example is the cooperation with energy companies to enable the use of excess heat from modular AI data centers in the adjacent district heating system.
Developing cloud software to operate a virtual, distributed data center benefits from in-depth skills and experience. One example is the open source lifecycle management Yaook, whose development was initiated by Cloud&Heat and STACKIT and is now part of the newly founded ALASCA association. The project is an important building block for realizing the vision of distributed infrastructures and the development of open source technologies to strengthen digital sovereignty in Europe. Likewise, cooperative projects and initiatives that aim to standardize cloud components (e.g. Gaia-X or the Sovereign Cloud Stack) are essential for the efficient management of heterogeneous IT resources.
Process to implement the solution
The energetic optimization of digital infrastructures is a continuous process. As already mentioned, Cloud&Heat currently operates data centers that are efficiently cooled and in which the waste heat is used sensibly. The model calculation for the 111 meter high Eurotheum, the former headquarters of the European Central Bank, in downtown Frankfurt shows the CO2 and cost savings potential for using server waste heat to heat buildings. Companies from the tech industry and AI users use an IT infrastructure tailored to their individual needs with the highest security standards. Each arithmetic operation supplies the building with heating energy and hot water thanks to the water cooling system. The calculation shows that an average of 40% or €255,000 is saved in energy costs. This means a saving of 710 tons of CO2 – for the compensation of which 56,800 deciduous trees would be required with a land consumption of 90 soccer fields in Germany.
A conclusion – Sovereign and sustainable cloud for the development of AI applications
If we want to exploit the potential of AI, we must find common ways to keep the negative ecological impact on our environment as low as possible. Through many years of experience, Cloud&Heat has developed a wide range of expert knowledge in various areas related to the planning, construction and operation of energy-efficient, open cloud infrastructures, which create the optimal conditions for the operation and development of AI applications.
Through the continuous development of our technologies in a strong partner ecosystem, we are getting one step closer to the vision of a green and digitally sovereign cloud every day.