Server Facilities Optimized for Renewable Energy Usage with Canada's GreenStar Network

Research Overview

Research Lead:  Greg Hidley, GreenLight Project Manager, Calit2

One area of potential carbon footprint reduction in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is through the use of renewable energy sources. Project GreenLight and Project GreenStar are collaborating to develop server environments capable of dynamic selection of server resources based on their current usage of renewable energy (something which can change rapidly as the sun sets, wind stops blowing or other factors affect the availability of renewable energy).

The GreenStar Network (GSN) is a CANARIE funded project led by École de Technologie Supérieure (Synchromedia). The goal of the GSN project is to create technology and standards for reducing the carbon footprint of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). ICT is responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions, due to high consumption of electricity produced from coal. GSN utilizes state of the art cloud computing and networking technology, thereby providing virtual machine mobility without interruption of user service. Moreover, because this is being done in a federated environment, the cloud resources form a single virtual infrastructure even when supplied by multiple infrastructure providers. The GSN virtual infrastructure aggregates virtual resources, each of which is ultimately based on physical resources. These resources are organized into a distributed cloud. The physical infrastructure consists mainly of servers, disc arrays and network elements such as switches and routers, whereas the virtual infrastructure consists of virtual machines, virtual storage, virtual routers and virtual switches. GSN's virtual infrastructure is structured into a hub and spokes topology, thereby inspiring the name Green "Star". A hub will be connected to a variety of spokes to which it can move jobs that need to be processed. The resources at the end of each spoke are powered by renewable energy; jobs are moved there only when the renewable energy is available. Hubs are sites where energy is always available, including hydro power or windmill farms of sufficient size such that there are no chances of having downtime. While there can be power management techniques at the hub that allows the manager to shutdown unused infrastructure, these nodes are expected to be reachable at all times. The spokes, however, are expected to have limited availability because they are powered by renewable energy sources; they may have power grid backups, but are not expected to be always available for computing. The Cloud Controller is a virtual infrastructure manager comprised of a simple optimization algorithm which tries to make the best use of the available compute spokes. The bulk of the storage is centralized at the hub to make sure data is always available. The spokes needs to be connected via high speed optical networks; processing is dispatched by the centralized controller for this virtual infrastructure to ensure that processing is [re]located at any time to infrastructure powered by available renewable energy.

During Year 3, Project GreenLight procured and installed two Nehalem based DC powered servers (in the role of spokes as described above) along with extensive power monitoring to Project GreenStar. In Year 4 we will jointly integrate the mechanisms for determining virtual machine migration options based upon the availability of servers powered by renewable energy at any given instant. These GreenLight DC servers and monitoring systems are now connected to and available for power calculations within the international GreenStar network. We are now determining development roles and experiments to support this collaboration, toward the end of Year 3.