Follow the moon, and save millions

Researchers highlight possibilities of data center energy savings.

Big companies with data centers around the world could reap millions of dollars in savings if they just "follow the moon" for their electricity needs.

Big companies with data centers around the world could reap millions of dollars in savings if they just “follow the moon” for their electricity needs.

That’s according to a study released this month by researchers at MIT, Akamai and Carnegie Mellon. They looked at the differences in energy costs at different times of the day, and found that companies could save money by exploiting those differences.

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That is, if electricity costs more in one location at a particular time, you could cut back usage at that location and route requests to a different location where electricity costs are cheaper. As noted here and here this could be called a “follow the moon” strategy because power and cooling costs are typically lower at night.

The researchers note that the technology to shift requests from one data center to another is already in place, with data replicated at multiple locations for fault-tolerance reasons. If you just introduce a little cost-awareness into the equation, you could take advantage of the current technology to save quite a few bucks. Estimates run 13%-30%, and the researchers think Google, for instance, probably spends about $38 million annually on electricity costs.

The researchers acknowledge that their findings can’t be taken too literally – while they did use real energy costs and traffic data from Akamai, there are a lot of assumptions being made.

Still, though, the researchers are on to something. The global nature of the Internet doesn’t completely erase geography as a concern, but it certainly opens up some new possibilities for how we think about what happens where.

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