EcoCloud center gets a makeover and expands its activities

As of January 1st, 2022, the EPFL EcoCloud Center is headed by Professor David Atienza. Its mission has been expanded with a strong new focus on fundamental research and education in the domain of sustainable cloud computing.

“Historically, Ecocloud’s main focus has been to deliver technologies jointly with top companies in the information technologies (IT) sector to help them optimize the large cloud computing infrastructure of public cloud systems”, says Atienza. “We are now focusing on the whole IT ecosystem to develop sustainable multiscale computing from the cloud to the edge”, he adds. “Our goal is to rethink the whole ecosystem and how we can provide IT solutions that can make computing more sustainable. In particular, the goal is to optimize the used resources for computing to minimize the environmental and social impact of IT infrastructures and practices. This includes the monitoring of materials, energy, water as well as other rare resources, and the creation of a circular economy for IT infrastructure, consering electronics impact on the environment from production to the recycling of cloud computing components.”

IT infrastructure as enabler for a sustainable society

“In collaboration with the School of Engineering (STI), the School of Computer and Communication Sciences (IC), the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), and the School of Basic Sciences (SB) we have defined multi-disciplinary IT application pillars or directions that are strategic for them”, says Atienza.

Four multi-center projects are planned for 2022 in the following research areas: energy-constrained and sustainable deep learning (in collaboration with the Center for Intelligent Systems (CIS) and the Center for Imaging), computational and data storage sustainability for scientific computing (in collaboration with the Space Center and the Energy Center), sustainable smart cities and transportation systems (in partnership with the FUSTIC Association, CIS and CLIMACT Center) and energy-constrained trustworthy systems including Bitcoin’s technology (in collaboration with the Center for Digital Trust).

In addition to its multi-center research projects on specific applications, EcoCloud will also work on fundamental technologies to enable sustainable IT infrastructures, such as minimal-energy computing and storage platforms, or approaches to maximize the use of renewable energy in data centers and IT services deployment.

Moreover, EcoCloud will keep working and strengthening in this new era of sustainable cloud computing research its previous collaboration for many years with historical IT partners through its Industrial Affiliates Program (IAP), such as Microsoft, HPE, Intel, IBM, Huawei or Facebook, who have confirmed their interest in continuing to collaborate with the center on its new research topics through their AIP membership.

A new facility for research on sustainable computing

“We plan to create an experimental facility dedicated to multi-disciplinary research on sustainable computing at EPFL”, says Atienza. In this facility, EcoCloud will provide specialized IT personnel to assist and support the EPFL laboratories in performing tests related to the proposed multi-center IT research projects and cloud infrastructures. “This year, research activities will focus on the agreed projects with the different schools and centers at EPFL, but in the future, we expect to make open calls for anyone at EPFL interested in research related to sustainable computing to be supported by EcoCloud.

Best practices for IT infrastructure

The dissemination of best practices for sustainable IT infrastructure is another core mission of EcoCloud. “In cooperation with the Vice-Presidency for Responsible Transformation (VPT), we are going to develop a course about the fundamentals of sustainable computing for EPFL students at the master level, which will be offered by the Section of Electrical Engineering (SEL) and the Section of Computer Science (SIN) for the complete campus”, says Atienza. “Continuous education for professionals is also important. We plan to offer training to companies to support and assist them in their digitalization processes and help them understand how to implement the most sustainable IT technologies and processes possible.”

“IT is the engine of our digital world. With a compound annual growth rate of more than 16%, cloud computing must embrace a strategy of digital responsibility to support economic progress and societal development without compromising the future of our planet”, concludes Atienza.

Public cloud

The public cloud concept refers to an IT model where on-demand computing services and infrastructure are managed by a third-party provider (e.g., Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, etc.) and shared (for a specific fee) with multiple organizations using the Internet. So, a public cloud is a subscription service offered by a company to many customers who want similar services. On the contrary, a private cloud is a service entirely controlled by a single organization for its internal use and not shared with others (e.g., the internal datacenter and IT infrastructure we have at EPFL).

Author: Leila Ueberschlag