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Developing an International Standard for Energy Efficiency in IT

- Toward achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 -

June 21, 2021

In order for software to use IT equipment without waste, an international standard has been published on how to evaluate energy efficiency accurately.
Use of this standard is expected to boost the market for energy-efficient software both in Japan and overseas, and contribute toward achieving a decarbonized society through further improvements in the energy efficiency of IT services.

1. Background

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to physical devices around us that are connected to the internet. Myriads of IT services that use technologies such as AI and 5G are appearing that enrich our lives and bring greater convenience. IT services are expected to be utilized in efforts toward improved energy efficiency. Example uses include creating smart cities, developing renewable-energy businesses, and expanding energy management. In addition, there are calls for digital transformation (DX) among companies, and more and more, business is being transformed through the use of IT. However, because IT services like these tend to be provided via cloud systems, data centers are expected to consume increasing amounts of power in the future (Figure 1). Consequently, improving their energy efficiency has become an issue.

* Source: JST, "Impact of Progress of Information Society on Energy Consumption (Vol. 2)" in Proposal Papers for Policy Making and Governmental Action toward Low Carbon Society, Feb. 2021, Table 10
Figure 1. Forecast of power consumption by data centers (Japan and the world)

Using less energy in data centers in order to help achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 will not only entail improving the energy efficiency of the IT equipment itself, but energy efficiency will also need to be improved by making software use equipment more efficiently. For example, with an automobile, fuel efficiency varies depending on the driver. Similarly, with an IT service, energy efficiency varies depending on how efficiently the software controls the IT equipment (Figure 2).

In fact, if access control for using IT devices efficiently is added to software processing, the power consumption can be significantly reduced with virtually no drop in performance (Figure 3).

* Source: N. Nishikawa, M. Nakano and M. Kitsuregawa, "Application Sensitive Energy Management Framework for Storage Systems," in IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering, vol. 27, no. 9, pp. 2335-2348, 1 Sept. 2015, Fig. 10
Figure 3. Power consumption and processing time with and without access control

To assess the effectiveness of software designed to contribute to improved energy efficiency, Japan proposed an indicator for energy efficiency as an application platform that combines IT equipment and software. This was then developed into an international standard. As a result, the indicators were approved as "ISO/IEC 23544:2021 Information Technology – Data Centres – Application Platform Energy Effectiveness (APEE)," and an international standard was published in 2021. This is the result of a grant project by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). (NEDO is a National Research and Development Agency.)

2. Outline of the standard

This standard specifies how to calculate energy efficiency based on the value provided by the IT services and the amount of power used to deliver it. Specifically, with a benchmark program run on the constructed application platform, energy efficiency will be the value of the IT services divided by the power consumed by the IT equipment. In addition to this calculation method, the standard also specifies how to measure power and report the measurement results, in order to ensure that the results of the calculation are reliable. Furthermore, as the standard is not tied to the measurement of any specific IT services or fields, it will also be possible to use it for services that may appear in the future.

3. Expected effects

The growth of data processing IT services is expected to explode in the future. The establishment of this standard is expected to help the world recognize that software is an important element in improving energy efficiency of these services, and to promote research and development toward software that will contribute to improved energy efficiency.
Furthermore, using this indicator to design and develop IT service application platforms with energy efficiency in mind will lead to improved energy efficiency in IT services and data centers. This improved energy efficiency is expected to contribute to the achievement of a decarbonized society.

Links to related information:

Division in Charge

International Electrotechnology Standardization Division, Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau