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Greening Geographical Load Balancing

Energy expenditure has become a significant fraction of data center operating costs. Recently, “geographical load balancing” has been proposed to reduce energy cost by exploiting the electricity price differences across regions. However, this reduction of cost can paradoxically increase total energy use. We explore whether the geographical diversity of Internet-scale systems can also provide environmental gains. Specifically, we explore whether geographical load balancing can encourage use of “green” renewable energy and reduce use of “brown” fossil fuel energy.

We make two contributions. First, we derive three distributed algorithms for achieving optimal geographical load balancing. Second, we show that if the price of electricity is proportional to the instantaneous fraction of the total energy that is brown, then geographical load balancing significantly reduces brown energy use. However, the benefits depend strongly on dynamic energy pricing and the form of pricing used.