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Sustainable IT and IT for Sustainability

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Energy and sustainability have become one of the most critical issues facing our society. This talk presents my research efforts in making IT systems more sustainable, and furthermore, using IT to improve the sustainability of the energy system.

IT represents the fastest growing sectors in energy usage and greenhouse gas pollution. Over the last decade there are dramatic energy efficiency improvements, but these do not necessarily lead to sustainability because more servers are demanded and dirtier energy sources are used. In the first part of my talk, I will use Geographical Load Balancing as an example to illustrate how to exploit the spatial flexibility in cloud workloads for renewable energy integration. In particular, I design algorithms with theoretically provable guarantees to deal with information uncertainties and the need of distributed control. Moving from theory to practice, I helped HP design and implement the industry’s first Net-Zero Energy Data Center.

Making IT sustainable is the first step. My broader view is that the cloud can, and should, play a significant role in improving the sustainability and efficiency of the broad energy infrastructure. The second part of the talk focuses on data center demand response as an example. I will discuss its great potential and challenges, as well as my recent efforts in both control algorithm design for customers and market design for utility companies and our society. Some of the work is under industrial transfer with HP and utility companies.

This talk is part of the Microsoft Research Cambridge, public talks series.

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