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Cutting the Electric Bill for Internet-Scale Systems

Cutting the Electric Bill for Internet-Scale Systems

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Published by Rich Hintz
characterize the variation due to fluctuating electricity prices and argue that existing distributed systems should be able to exploit this variation for significant economic gains
characterize the variation due to fluctuating electricity prices and argue that existing distributed systems should be able to exploit this variation for significant economic gains

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Published by: Rich Hintz on Sep 03, 2009
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Cutting the Electric Bill for Internet-Scale Systems
AsfandyarQureshi
MITCSAIL
asfandyar@mit.edu
RickWeber
AkamaiTechnologies
riweber@akamai.com
HariBalakrishnan
MITCSAIL
hari@mit.edu
JohnGuttag
MITCSAIL
guttag@mit.edu
BruceMaggs
CarnegieMellonUniversity
bmm@cs.cmu.edu
ABSTRACT
Energy expenses are becoming an increasingly importantfraction of data center operating costs. At the same time,the energy expense per unit of computation can vary sig-nificantly between two different locations. In this paper,we characterize the variation due to fluctuating electricityprices and argue that existing distributed systems should beable to exploit this variation for significant economic gains.Electricity prices exhibit both temporal and geographic vari-ation, due to regional demand differences, transmission inef-ficiencies, and generation diversity. Starting with historicalelectricity prices, for twenty nine locations in the US, andnetwork traffic data collected on Akamai’s CDN, we use sim-ulation to quantify the possible economic gains for a realisticworkload. Our results imply that existing systems may beable to save millions of dollars a year in electricity costs, bybeing cognizant of locational computation cost differences.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
C.2.4 [
Computer-Communication Networks
]: DistributedSystems
General Terms
Economics, Management, Performance
1. INTRODUCTION
With the rise of “Internet-scalesystems and“cloud com-puting”services, there is an increasing trend toward massive,geographically distributed systems. The largest of these aremade up of hundredsof thousands of servers and several datacenters. A large data center may require many megawattsof electricity [1], enough to power thousands of homes.Millions of dollars must be spent annually on the electric-ity needed to power one such system. Furthermore, thesealready large systems are increasing in size at a rapid clip,outpacing data center energy efficiency gains [2], and elec-tricity prices are expected to rise.
Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work forpersonal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies arenot made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copiesbear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, torepublish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specificpermission and/or a fee.
SIGCOMM’09,
August 17–21, 2009, Barcelona, Spain.Copyright 2009 ACM 978-1-60558-594-9/09/08 ...$10.00.
Company Servers Electricity Cost
eBay 16K
0.6
×
10
5
MWh
$3.7MAkamai 40K
1.7
×
10
5
MWh
$10MRackspace 50K
2
×
10
5
MWh
$12MMicrosoft
>
200K
>
6
×
10
5
MWh
>
$36MGoogle
>
500K
>
6.3
×
10
5
MWh
>
$38MUSA (2006) 10.9M 610
×
10
5
MWh $4.5BMIT campus 2.7
×
10
5
MWh $62M
Figure 1:
Estimated annual electricity costs for largecompanies (servers and infrastructure) @ $60/MWh.These are conservative estimates, meant to be lowerbounds. See
§
2.1 for derivation details. For scale, wehave included the actual 2007 consumption and utilitybill for the MIT campus, including dormitories and labs.
Organizations such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Ya-hoo!, and many other operators of large networked systemscannot ignore their energy costs. A back-of-the-envelopecal-culation for Google suggests it consumes more than $38Mworth of electricity annually (figure 1). A modest 3% reduc-tion would therefore exceed a million dollars every year. Weproject that even a smaller system like Akamai’s
1
consumesan estimated $10M worth of electricity annually
2
.The conventional approach to reducing energy costs hasbeen to reduce the amount of energy consumed [3, 4]. Newcooling technologies, architectural redesigns, DC power, multi-core servers, virtualization, and energy-aware load balanc-ing algorithms have all been proposed as ways to reduce thepower demands of data centers. That work is complemen-tary to ours.This paper develops and analyzes a new method to reducethe energy costs of running large Internet-scale systems. Itrelies on two key observations:1.
Electricity prices vary.
In those parts of the U.S. withwholesale electricity markets, prices vary on an
hourly 
basis and are often not well correlated at different lo-cations. Moreover, these variations are substantial, asmuch as a factor of 10 from one hour to the next. If,when computational demand is below peak, we can dy-namically move demand (i.e., route service requests) toplaces with lower prices, we can reduce energy costs.2.
Large distributed systems already incorporate request routing and replication.
We observe thatmost Internet-scale systems today are geographically distributed, with
1
This paper covers work done outside Akamai and does not rep-resent the official views of the company.
2
Though Akamai seldom pays directly for electricity, it pays forit indirectly as part of co-location expenses.
123
 
machines at tens or even hundreds of sites around theworld. To provide clients good performance and totolerate faults, these systems implement some form of dynamic request routing to map clients to servers, andoften have mechanisms to replicate the data necessaryto process requests at multiple sites.We hypothesizethat by exploiting these observations, largesystems can save a significant amount of money, using mech-anisms for request routing and replication that they alreadyimplement. To explore this hypothesis, we develop a simple
cost-aware
request routing policy that preferentially mapsrequests to locations where energy is cheaper.Our main contribution is to identify the relevance of elec-tricity price differentials to large distributed systems and toestimate the cost savings that could result in practice if thescheme were deployed.
Problem Specification.
Given a large system composedof server clusters spread out geographically, we wish to mapclient requests to clusters such that the total electricity cost(in dollars, not Joules) of the system is minimized. For sim-plicity, we assume that the system is fully replicated. Addi-tionally, we optimize for cost every hour, with no knowledgeof the future. This rate of change is slow enough to be com-patible with existing routing mechanisms, but fast enoughto respond to electricity market fluctuations. Finally, we in-corporate bandwidth and performance goals as constraints.Existing frameworks already exist to optimize for bandwidthand performance; modeling them as constraints makes itpossible to add our process to the end of the existing opti-mization pipeline.Note that our analysis is concerned with reducing
cost 
, notenergy. Our approach may route client requests to distantlocations to take advantage of cheap energy. These longerpaths may cause overall energy consumption to rise slightly.
Energy Elasticity.
The maximum reduction in cost ourapproach can achieve hinges on the
energy elasticity 
of theclusters. This is the degree to which the energy consumed bya cluster depends on the load placed on it. Ideally, clusterswould draw no power in the absence of load. In the worstcase, there would be no difference between the peak powerand the idle power of a cluster. Present state-of-the-art sys-tems [5, 6] fall somewhere in the middle, with idle powerbeing around 60% of peak. A system with inelastic clustersis forced to always consume energy everywhere, even in re-gions with high energy prices. Without adequate elasticity,we cannot effectively route the system’s power demand awayfrom high priced areas.Zero-idle power could be achieved by aggressively consol-idating, turning off under-utilized components, and alwaysactivating only the minimum number of machines needed tohandle the offered load. At present, achieving this withoutimpacting performance is still an open challenge. However,there is an increasing interest in
energy-proportional 
servers[6] and dynamic server provisioning techniques are being ex-plored by both academics and industry [7, 8, 9, 10, 11].
Results.
To conduct our analysis, we use trace-drivensimulation with real-world hourly (and daily) energy pricesobtained from a number of data sources. We look at 39months of hourly electricity prices from 29 US locations.Our request traces come from the Akamai content distribu-tion network (CDN): we obtained 24-days worth of requesttraffic data (five-minute load) for each server cluster locatedat a commercial data center in the U.S. We used these datasets to estimate the performance of our simple cost-awarerouting scheme under different constraints.We show that:
Existing systems can reduce energy costs by at least2%, without any increase in bandwidth costs or sig-nificant reduction in client performance (assuming aGoogle-like energy elasticity, an Akamai-like server dis-tribution and 95/5 bandwidth constraints). For largecompanies this can exceed a million dollars a year.
Savings rapidly increase with energy elasticity: in afully elastic system, with relaxed bandwidthconstraints,we can reduce energy cost by over 30% (around 13%if we impose strict bandwidth constraints), without asignificant increase in client-server distances.
Allowing client-server distances to increase leads to in-creased savings. If we remove the distance constraint,a dynamic solution has the potential to beat a staticsolution (i.e., place all servers in cheapest market) by asubstantial margin (45% maximum savings versus 35%maximum savings).Presently, energy cost-aware routing is relevant only tovery large companies. However, as we move forward andthe energy elasticity of systems increases, not only will thisrouting technique become more relevant to the largest sys-tems, but much smaller systems will also be able to achievemeaningful savings.
Paper Organization.
In the next section, we providesome background on server electricity expenditureand sketchthe structure of US energy markets. In section 3 we presentdata about the variation in regional electric prices. Section4 describes the Akamai data set used in this paper. Section5 outlines the energy consumption model used in the simu-lations covered in section 6. Section 7 considers alternativemechanisms for market participation. Section 8 presentssome ideas for future work, before we conclude.
2. BACKGROUND
This section first presents evidence that electricity is be-coming an increasingly important economic consideration,and then describes the salient features of the wholesale elec-tricity markets in the U.S.
2.1 The Scale of Electricity Expenditures
In absolute terms, servers consume a substantial amountof electricity. In 2006, servers and data centers accounted foran estimated 61 million MWh, 1.5% of US electricity con-sumption, costing about 4.5 billion dollars [3]. At worst, by2011, data center energy use could double. At best, by re-placing everything with state-of-the-art equipment, we maybe able to reduce usage in 2011 to half the current level [3].Most companies operating Internet-scale systems are se-cretive about their server deployments and power consump-tion. Figure 1 shows our estimates for several such com-panies, based on back-of-the-envelope calculations
3
. The
3
Energy in Wh
n
·
(
idle
+(
peak
idle
)
·
+(
PU
1)
·
peak
)
·
365
·
24, where:
n
is server count,
peak
is server peak power inWatts,
idle
is idle power, and
is average server utilization.
124
 
RTO Region Some Regional Hubs
ISONE New England Boston (MA-BOS), Maine (ME),Connecticut (CT)NYISO New York NYC, Albany (CAPITL), Buffalo(WEST), PJM import (PJM)PJM Eastern Chicago (CHI), Virgina (DOM),New Jersey (NJ)MISO Midwest Peoria (IL), Minnesota (MN),Indiana (CINERGY)CAISO California Palo Alto (NP15), LA (SP15)ERCOT Texas Dallas (N), Austin (S)
Figure 2:
The different regions studied in this paper.The listed hubs provide a sense of RTO coverage and areference to map electricity market location identifiers(hub NP15) to real locations (Palo Alto).
server numbers are from public disclosures for eBay [12] andRackspace (Q1 2009 earnings report). To calculate energy,we have made the following assumptions: average data cen-ter power usage effectiveness (PUE)
4
is 2.0 [3] and is cal-culated based on peak power; average server utilization isaround 30% [6, 7]; average peak server power usage is 250Watts (based on measurements of actual servers at Akamai);and idle servers draw 60-75% of their peak power [5, 8]. Ournumbers for Microsoft are based on company statements [13]and energy figures mentioned in a promotional video [14].To estimate Google’s power consumption, we assumed500K servers (based on an old, widely circulated number[13]), operating at 140 Watts each [5], a PUE of 1.3 [4] andaverage utilization around 30% [6]. Such a system wouldconsume more than 6
.
3
×
10
5
MWh, and would incur an an-nual electricity bill of nearly $38 million (at $60 per MWhwholesale rate). These numbers are consistent with an in-dependent calculation we can make. comScore estimatedthat Google performed about 1.2B searches/day in August2007 [15], and Google officially stated recently that eachsearch takes 1 kJ of energy on average (presumably amor-tized to include indexing and other costs). Thus, searchalone works out to 1
×
10
5
MWh in 2007. Google’s servershandle GMail, YouTube, and many other applications, soour earlier estimates seem reasonable. Google may well havemore than a million servers [1], so an annual electric bill ex-ceeding $80M wouldn’t be surprising.Akamai’s electricity costs represent indirect costs not seenby the company itself. Like others who rely on co-locationfacilities, Akamai seldom pays directly for electricity. Poweris mostly built into the billing model, with charges based onprovisioned capacity rather than consumption. In section7 we discuss why our ideas are relevant even to those notdirectly charged per-unit of electricity they use.
2.2 Wholesale Electricity Markets
Although market details differ regionally, this section pro-vides a high-level view of deregulated electricity markets,providing a context for the rest of the paper. The discus-sion is based on markets in the United States.
Generation.
Electricity is produced by government util-ities and independent power producers from a variety of sources. In the United States, coal dominates (nearly 50%),followed by natural gas (
20%), nuclear power (
20%), andhydroelectric generation (6%) [16].
4
A measure of data center energy efficiency.
Different regions may have very different power genera-tion profiles. For example, in 2007, hydroelectric sourcesaccounted for 74% of the power generated in Washingtonstate, while in Texas, 86% of the energy was generated us-ing natural gas and coal.
Transmission.
Producers and consumers are connectedto an electric
grid 
, a complex network of transmission anddistribution lines. Electricity cannot be stored easily, sosupply and demand must continuously be balanced.In addition to connecting nearby nodes, the grid can beused to transfer electricity between distant locations. TheUnited States is divided into eight
reliability regions
, withvarying degrees of inter-connectivity. Congestion on thegrid, transmission line losses (est. 6% [17] in 2006), andboundaries between regions introduce distribution inefficien-cies and limit how electricity can flow.
MarketStructure.
In each region, a pseudo-government-al body, a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO), man-ages the grid (figure 2). An RTO provides a central author-ity that sets up and directs the flow of electricity betweengenerators and consumers over the grid. RTOs also providemechanisms to ensure the short-term reliability of the grid.Additionally, RTOs administer
wholesale
electricty mar-kets. While bilateral contracts account for the majority of the electricity that flows over the grid, wholesale electric-ity trading has been growing rapidly, and presently coversabout 40% of total electricity.Wholesale market participants can trade forward contractsfor the delivery of electricity at some specified hour. In or-der to determine prices for these contracts, RTOs such asPJM use an auctioning mechanism: power producers presentsupply offers (possibly price sensitive), consumers presentdemand bids (possibly price sensitive); and a coordinatingbody determines how electricity should flow and sets prices.The market clearing process sets hourly prices for the dif-ferent locations in the market. The outcomes depend notonly on bids and offers, but also account for a number of constraints (grid-connectivity, reliability, etc.).Each RTO operates multiple parallel wholesale markets.There are two common market types:
Day-ahead markets (futures)
provide hourly prices fordelivery during the following day. The outcome isbased on expected load
5
.
Real-time markets (spot)
are balancing markets whereprices are calculated every five minutes or so, based onactual conditions, rather than expectations. Typically,this market accounts for a small fraction of total energytransactions (less than 10% of total in NYISO).Generally speaking, the most expensive active generationresource determines the market clearing price for each hour.The RTO attempts to meet expected demand by activatingthe set of resources with the lowest operating costs. Whendemand is low, the base-load power plants, such as coal andnuclear can fulfill it. When demand rises, additional re-sources, such as natural gas turbines, need to be activated.Security constraints, line losses and
congestion costs
alsoimpact price. When transmission system restrictions, suchas line capacities, prevent the least expensive energy sup-plier from serving demand,
congestion 
is said to exist. More
5
Hour-ahead markets, not discussed here, are analogous.
125

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