News Overview

LEGaTO: A European IT Project for More Sustainability

Author: Microcity Neuchâtel - Switzerland Innovation Park Network West EPFL

The LEGaTO project seeks to reduce the energy consumption of data centres by making more rational and efficient use of computing resources. Rather than modifying hardware, the idea is to use it to do "more with less". For a given problem, the best combination of processors is used in an optimal way.

For example, with service virtualization, it is possible to place several "logical servers" on the same physical server (machine) and thus reduce the number of machines needed while running more services. Utilization rates of 80% or more can easily be achieved while dedicated servers are often underutilized, in the order of 10% or less.

IT and sustainability: the facts
According to recent estimates, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector will consume 20% of the world's electricity by 2025 and emit more than 5% of all carbon emissions (carbon footprint of 5.5%). Currently, data centres already consume more than 3% of the world's electricity and are responsible for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the face of this challenge, two approaches can be considered and combined for more sustainable IT:

  • Developing more environmentally friendly IT;
  • Using IT for sustainable development.

More environmentally friendly IT
It would be possible to reduce the impact of the energy used for IT.
For example:

  • Using the energy dissipated by the servers for heating and hot water;
  • Locate computer centres in the Nordic countries (reduced cooling requirements);
  • Using renewable energy nearby by installing servers on farms using biomass (organic matter of plant and animal origin). It is more efficient to transport digital data than energy.

Computing for sustainable development ("computational sustainability")
The aim is to use computer technologies (simulations, AI) to make progress towards sustainable development. The aim is to optimise societal, economic and environmental resources, for example by improving transport (reducing traffic to limit greenhouse gas emissions), waste management, crop yields (world hunger), the fight against poverty or by developing personalised medicine.