Compute, Information, Lifetime: Paradigm Changing Opportunities to Improve Computing’s Environmental Sustainability

Abstract: Computing’s rapid proliferation has rapidly growing negative environmental impacts.  See “What do Computing and DDT have in Common?”, CACM, June 2020.  To harvest computing’s benefits, we must go beyond efficiency, considering macroscopic and ecosystem effects to address computing’s environmental sustainability.  These are difficult challenges, but we will discuss three paradigm changing opportunities for improvement and some encouraging progress.
Compute and Carbon Emissions. We can eliminate much of the Scope 2 carbon emissions of computing.  We will describe the Zero carbon Cloud, and future visions “Good, Better, and Best!” that reflect the realities of renewable energy markets.  Zccloud shows how datacenters can create synergies with the power grid that accelerate decarbonization, rather than retard it.  New Paradigm: Computing that is flexible in time and space and responsive to the environment. 
Information and Flexibility.   We should build intelligent, flexible applications that adapt and follow the availability of zero-carbon power with time scales of hours and days (mesoscale).  Doing so requires information on current and future power grid status –renewable generation, power use, and even the “flexing” of other loads.   But current grid information is insufficient in metrics, timeliness, spatial resolution, accurate futures.  Our RiPiT project is exploring these needs.  New Paradigm: Information services that enable intelligent flex and coordinate competition for low-carbon energy, and flexible applications that can exploit them.
LIFETIME - NAVIGATING DENNARD, CARBON, AND MOORE.  Computing has a fast-fashion culture problem, rooted in Moore’s law and rapid improvement. But technology is changing, what continues to drive rapid upgrades that increase e-waste and embodied carbon consumption?  Its compute density and power efficiency, but also fashion and software.  But there are emerging opportunities for 2nd life and circular economy of hardware.  New Paradigm: Create new pathways to extend the lifetime of hardware to reduce e-waste and embodied carbon.

Bio: Andrew A Chien is the William Eckhardt Professor of Computer Science at the University of Chicago and Senior Scientist at Argonne National Laboratories.  He has led the Zero-carbon Cloud project since 2015, and is well-known for his research on datacenters, renewable energy and sustainability, cloud resource management and software, large-scale system architecture, and graph computing architecture.  Chien has received numerous recognitions for his research.  Dr. Chien currently serves on the NSF CISE Advisory Committee and DARPA ISAT.  He is a Fellow of the ACM, IEEE, and AAAS.  He served as EiC of Communications of the ACM, 2017-2022, and Vice President of Research at Intel Corporation from 2005-2010.  He has served on the Faculty of the University of Illinois and as SAIC Chair Professor of University of California, San Diego.  He received BS, MS, and PhD degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Co-Hosted by the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems & the The Institute for Data Engineering and Science at Georgia Tech.