From ON Magazine, Issue No. 1, 2010
Thank you, Chairman Kerry and members of the Subcommittee for this opportunity to discuss the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in enabling a more energy-efficient economy. My name is Kathrin Winkler, and I am the chief sustainability officer for EMC Corporation, a Fortune 500 technology company headquartered in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. EMC specializes in building information infrastructure, the digital foundation for storing, protecting, and maximizing the value from information assets.
This morning, I’d like to convey three key points:
- That ICT is driving efficiency aggressively within the industry;
- That ICT is central to unlocking increased energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout our economy; and
- That Congress has a role to play in working with industry to realize ICT’s full potential.
Looking first at information technology’s use of energy, the industry has dramatically increased performance per kilowatt in virtually every generation of its products. Our customers expect us to reduce their operational costs and help them defer or avoid the capital costs of data center expansion. Our stakeholders are asking us to reduce emissions. And in our technology culture, efficiency is a core design principle of good engineering.
For these reasons, the ICT industry finds itself competing on three levels:
- On the energy efficiency of our products;
- In how we’re reducing the carbon footprint of our operations and our supply chains; and, most importantly,
- In the market for products and services that make ICT operations more efficient.
Efficient operations are important because the greatest opportunity for reducing energy consumption in ICT comes not from the products themselves, but from how they are used; from consolidating underutilized equipment and eliminating over-provisioning of resources.
One of the most game-changing technologies in this arena is server virtualization, software that enables a single physical server to run multiple operating systems at one time. Without virtualization, most servers are being used at only five to 15 percent of their compute capacity. With it, companies can consolidate loads from hundreds of servers down to a few dozen. Server virtualization initiatives based upon software from one company, VMware, have measured aggregate power savings estimated to be greater than the electricity consumed annually in all of New England for heating, ventilation, and cooling.
With the amount of digital data growing 60 percent per year, other breakthroughs focus on the efficiency of the data storage infrastructure. Solid state drives, for instance, consume 38 percent less power than their predecessors for the same capacity and 98 percent less for the same performance. Data deduplication eliminates redundant copies of data, reducing the amount of hardware and thus energy used to manage it.
Cloud computing, referred to in the President’s budget as essential “to achieve efficient and effective IT,” is a model that delivers ICT as a service. It offers even greater consolidation and can offload peak demand, thus reducing over-provisioning in corporate data centers.
EMC uses these technologies in its own ICT infrastructure, contributing to a reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20 percent per dollar of revenue in just three years.
ICT firms are also cooperating. In organizations such as The Green Grid, we bring together end users, vendors, and service providers to develop metrics, build tools, educate data center operators, and collaborate with government and industry organizations around the globe.
Yet, this is only one-fiftieth of the story. It is estimated that ICT accounts for two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But what about the other 98 percent? Studies have shown that by 2020, ICT could abate as much as five times the emissions as it generates. This phenomenon is already apparent in our home state of Massachusetts, historically a leader in information technology, and now a state whose energy productivity is one of the highest in the nation.
We see ICT’s potential in the energy sector with emerging Smart Grid technology, where ICT will provide the information and tools for utilities and consumers to make more informed decisions.
In transportation, ICT is the engine for reducing fuel use through optimization of routing and of freight packing, as well as the aggregation of fleet performance data to evaluate vehicle technologies, fuel choices, and even driving styles.
There are many other examples, but there are barriers, too. Congress can help us overcome obstacles to reducing ICT’s two percent by:
- Demanding that the federal government lead by example, implementing best practices and technologies in what is the largest ICT infrastructure in the world;
- Bridging split incentives in the federal infrastructure through the institution of appropriate reporting mechanisms;
- Continuing investment in cloud computing and next-generation ICT research at NIST; and
- Collaborating with industry to promote the development of metrics and tools.
To leverage the potential of ICT for the other 98 percent, Congress should:
- Expand the availability of broadband to connect cities and rural areas; and
- Collaborate with industry to develop a national strategy for the use of ICT to improve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 in the economy.
To summarize, the ICT industry is in a race to the top. We are investing in technology and business model innovation. We are collaborating to drive standards and competing to drive the market.
Investments in research and innovation will be critical, but we needn’t wait: The means to realize huge efficiencies in ICT and across a broad range of industry sectors are available today. Through its actions, Congress can accelerate our transformation to an energy-efficient economy.
EMC is passionate about the current and future contributions being made by the ICT industry in enabling energy efficiency, the ultimate renewable resource.
Thank you, Chairman Kerry and members of the Subcommittee for this opportunity to share our perspective, and I ask that my full statement be made part of the record.