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Google to shift cloud compute tasks between datacentres based on green power availability

Internet giant Google debuts capability that makes it possible to shift compute workloads between datacentres based on the regional availability of renewable, carbon-free power sources

Google’s company-wide decarbonise push continues apace, with the tech giant announcing the emergence of a new capability that allows it to shift movable compute tasks to datacentres where there is a surplus of carbon-free energy available.

The company said this capability means it can shift tasks between different server farms based on regional, hourly fluctuations in the availability of carbon-free energy, so that it can ensure its workloads are running in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

“Our carbon-intelligent platform uses day-ahead predictions of how heavily a given grid will be relying on carbon-intensive energy in order to shift computing across the globe, favouring regions where there’s more carbon-free electricity,” the company said, in a blog post.

“The new platform does all this while still getting everything that needs to get done, done – meaning you can keep on streaming YouTube videos, uploading photos, finding directions or whatever else.”

The initiative is part of a wider push by the internet search giant to run its entire operations on decarbonised energy by 2030, and the company confirmed the first workloads to benefit from this capability will be media processing-related.

“Like many computing jobs at Google, these can technically run in many places (of course, limitations like privacy laws apply),” the blog post continued.

“Now, Google’s global carbon-intelligent computing platform will increasingly reserve and use hourly compute capacity on the most clean grids available worldwide for these compute jobs – meaning it moves as much energy consumption as possible to times and places where energy is cleaner, minimising carbon-intensive energy consumption.”

The company described the move as “a logical progression” of its ongoing push to cut the carbon emissions generated by its operations, which have previously seen it draw on forecast data to ensure non-urgent compute workloads are processed in its datacentres during peak supply times for renewable energy.

“By enabling our datacentres to shift flexible tasks to different times of day, we were able to use more electricity when carbon-free sources like solar and wind are plentiful,” the company blog post continued. “Now, with our newest update, we’re able to shift more electricity use to where carbon-free energy is available.”

News of the initiative also coincides with a separate announcement by Google about the collaboration it has forged with clean-energy startup Fervo to co-develop a carbon-free power project centred on the generation of geothermal power.

According to Google, the project is at an advanced stage, with the firm claiming the setup will be supplying carbon-free energy to the electricity grid that powers its datacentres and cloud region in Las Vegas by 2022.

In a separate blog post, announcing the partnership, the company said geothermal power will provide its datacentres with a “firm and flexible” source of carbon-free energy as the firm looks to wind down its reliance on fossil fuels.

“Not only does this Fervo project bring our datacentres in Nevada closer to round-the-clock energy, but it also acts as a proof of concept to show how firm clean energy sources – such as next-generation geothermal – could eventually help replace carbon-emitting power sources around the world,” the post added.

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