Google's DeepMind A.I. can slash data center power use 40%

Google now plans to direct DeepMind’s machine learning algorithm at other data center challenges

Google tapped into the superior intelligence of its DeepMind neural network to find ways to vastly reduce the energy it uses in its data centers, which make up 40% of the worldwide Internet.

"This will also help other companies who run on Google's cloud to improve their own energy efficiency," Google said in a blog about the achievement. "While Google is only one of many data center operators in the world, many are not powered by renewable energy as we are."

Google has set a goal to eventually power its data centers using 100% renewable energy. Today, the company claims, renewable energy is used for 35% of its power needs.

Google DeepMind data center power usage Google

A graph displaying a typical day of testing using DeepMind's algorithm to recommend the most efficient power use effectiveness. The graph shows when the machine learning recommendations were turned on and off.

The company has also partnered with, or outright invested $1.5 billion, in 22 utility-scale wind or solar projects around the world, making it the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy.

"When added up, these projects represent a total capacity of over 2.5GW, which is far more electricity than we use," Google said on its data center website. "To put this in context, this electricity is equivalent to that consumed by around 500,000 homes."

DeepMind, a London-based artificial intelligence company that Google acquired in 2014, is a neural network inspired by the human central nervous system that can actively learn about an environment in order to solve complex tasks.

Google's massive data center infrastructure supports Internet services such as Google Search, Gmail and YouTube, but its servers generate massive amounts of heat that "must be removed to keep the servers running."

"This cooling is typically accomplished via large industrial equipment such as pumps, chillers and cooling towers," Google said. "We began applying machine learning two years ago to operate our data centers more efficiently. And over the past few months, DeepMind researchers began working with Google's data center team to significantly improve the system's utility."

DeepMind used historical data -- such as temperatures, power and pump speeds -- that had already been collected by thousands of sensors in its data centers and used it to train the A.I.'s neural networks on the average future PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness), "which is defined as the ratio of the total building energy usage to the IT energy usage."

Additional neural networks were then used to predict the future temperature and pressure of data center in order to recommend actions.

"Our machine learning system was able to consistently achieve a 40% reduction in the amount of energy used for cooling, which equates to a 15% reduction in overall PUE after accounting for electrical losses and other non-cooling inefficiencies. It also produced the lowest PUE the site had ever seen," Google said.

Google now plans to direct DeepMind's machine learning algorithm at other data center challenges, such as improving power plant conversion efficiency (getting more energy from the same unit of input); reducing semiconductor manufacturing energy and water usage; and helping manufacturing facilities increase throughput.

The company plans to share the results so that other data center and industrial system operators can benefit from what it learns.

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Lucas Mearian

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