Among the issues faced by UK universities and colleges, the carbon emissions from their ICT loom large. One cause of the growth in these emissions is demand for computing and in particular the ever-growing demand for data storage and data centres.
One way of tackling this demand has been explored by a JISC-funded project at Cardiff University.
The team at Cardiff’s Information Services Directorate have been studying ways of storing computer files that can reduce the amount of energy used by computers for storage by over 80%.
Dubbed Planet Filestore, the project has developed an approach to storing data on disks with different energy consumption depending on the frequency with which the data is accessed. Data which is not used very often is moved to a disk which uses less power, thus saving electricity and money while still allowing users near instant access.
When put into full production at Cardiff University, it is anticipated that this will save the university 87600KW.h (or approximately 51 tonnes of CO2) per year which, at current prices, would cost around £10,000 per annum. These savings are likely to increase significantly with escalating storage requirements and energy costs. Environmental savings are also likely to be made in terms of space occupied, procurement, shipping, disposal and hazardous waste reduction.
Rob Bristow, JISC Programme Manager, said: “The approach piloted by Cardiff Information Services has the potential to make a real difference to the carbon footprint of universities if it is adopted across the sector. The more than £100 million that electricity for ICT costs the sector every year is likely to rise in the future and initiatives like this can make a real difference”.
The project has intentionally used techniques and technologies that will easily transfer to a wide range of corporate systems across the world, including those in education, research, public bodies and commercial companies.
Project leader Paul Rock said: “The greatest benefit will be felt if many more organisations were to use this kind of approach to minimise the energy footprint of their filestore. This would mean that the electricity and carbon savings arising from this project would scale dramatically”.
To help make this approach more widely available, JISC is funding Cardiff University Information Services to develop a web-based tool that universities and colleges can use to model the benefits of different scenarios of file storage in terms of environmental and economic savings.
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Cardiff University Information Services Planet Filestore project and other sustainability initiatives