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How We’re Conserving Energy While Energizing Online Experiences

Robert Blumofe

Written by

Robert Blumofe

March 08, 2022

Dr. Robert Blumofe is Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Akamai. As CTO, he guides Akamai’s technology strategy, works with Akamai’s largest customers, and convenes technology leaders within the company to catalyze innovation. Previously, he led Akamai’s Platform organization and Enterprise Division, where he was responsible for developing and operating the distributed system underlying all Akamai products and services, as well as creating products and services for major enterprises to secure and improve performance.

I’ve always loved building things. At Akamai, I get to be part of a team that builds amazing things — things that power and protect online experiences and make life better for billions of people, billions of times a day. But delivering those online experiences comes with a catch. 

As people have become increasingly reliant on the internet, driving traffic up exponentially, energy demand has skyrocketed. In fact, data centers are estimated to consume 1% of all global electricity demand. More energy consumption means more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a major contributor of global climate change.

Ahead of the trend

When I joined Akamai in 1999, the reduction of energy use was not high on the industry’s priority list. The web was still in its infancy and most people were focused on building the applications and infrastructure that formed the foundation of online life. But as early as 2009, when Akamai launched its corporate sustainability initiative, finding ways to intelligently manage our energy use became a key focus for us.

When I think back over the past 13 years, as our network has grown and evolved, we’ve made tremendous progress in reducing our energy consumption. Between 2015 and 2020, for example, we made the Akamai global network 30% more efficient. But we didn’t stop there. 

As the threat of climate change has become more evident, we’ve focused on this issue with even greater urgency, making energy efficiency and emissions reduction core elements of Akamai’s sustainability commitment.

An ambitious goal

Although many companies talk a good game, if you look under the hood you’ll often see little or no meaningful action taken to reduce their energy consumption. That’s because reducing energy use while keeping pace with growing capacity demands is really hard. It requires a commitment to investing in new ways of doing things. 

At Akamai, we’ve made that commitment. And we put a stake in the ground — with the goal of making the Akamai Intelligent Edge Platform 50% more energy efficient and a carbon-neutral edge with net zero emissions by 2030.

If that sounds like an ambitious goal, that’s because it is. Achieving it will require a combination of efficiency strategies. In this blog post, I’d like to tell you about some of them.

Hardware efficiencies

To enable billions of secure online experiences every day, Akamai maintains racks and racks of hardware in locations worldwide. Our hardware engineering team is continually working with our suppliers to develop servers that reliably deliver more traffic for a given amount of energy. Servers generate heat, which requires them to be cooled. Our servers are built to withstand higher temperatures, reducing the energy needed to cool them. 

Across thousands of units, this adds up to significant energy savings. In fact, these hardware advancements have improved throughput per server by 2.3 times. The result is greater capacity without increasing our power or rack space footprint.

Facility efficiencies

This approach to doing more with less extends to our Akamai-owned data centers (AODC). Over the past few years, we developed our own purpose-built facilities to provide greater control over environmental conditions, enabling us to take full advantage of the hardware efficiencies of our servers. Sustainable cooling solutions, including using outside air, help further reduce energy consumption. 

As a result, our AODCs operate at impressive levels of power usage effectiveness (PUE), performing more work for a given unit of energy. A PUE of 1.0 is considered ideal and in 2021 our AODCs operated at between 1.09 and 1.25 average year-round PUE. Those are good numbers. But we continue to look for ways to improve them.

Beyond our own facilities, we prioritize colocation partners that operate their facilities in accordance with environmentally conscious standards, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and use renewable energy best practices.

Software efficiencies

Akamai’s sophisticated software stack is at the heart of our ability to deliver transformative online experiences. But it’s also designed to maximize energy efficiency. Our engineers design software that streamlines processes whenever possible, using only the hardware resources necessary to perform a task. And we never stand still. We continuously audit the Akamai Intelligent Edge Platform to ensure we’re making the best use of all resources.

Metro caching

A great example of the innovation we bring to energy efficiency is our use of metro caching. This is a strategy designed to eliminate duplicated cached data within a given geographic area. Instead of storing content for each ISP in a given region, metro caching creates a joint cache to eliminate duplication of cached content, which helps reduce the energy needed to power and cool the servers caching the same content.

Metro caching can dramatically increase storage efficiency, using one-half to one-third of the disk space previously required. In addition to energy savings, this enables us to operate with fewer servers, reducing the eventual e-waste.

Measuring our progress

A key part of our sustainability commitment is measuring and reporting on our progress. When it comes to energy efficiency, we’re making steady gains. Since 2020, we have succeeded in making the Akamai network 28% more efficient, despite increasing our capacity by 60%. We have reduced Scope 2 emissions by 47% over that same period. 

Since 2018, Akamai has contributed to abating more than 220,000 metric tons of GHG emissions globally. That’s equivalent to the emissions generated by a passenger car driving nearly 553 million miles. 

I’m extremely proud of the progress we’ve made toward reaching the goal of making the Akamai platform 50% more energy efficient by 2030. I’m equally proud of how we’re doing it — by looking at our operations in new ways and developing fresh approaches for managing our energy use while meeting the expanding needs of our global customers. Then again, developing new ways to solve challenging problems is at the heart of Akamai’s culture.

Energy efficiency is just one dimension of Akamai’s commitment to sustainability. To get the full story, I encourage you to read the just-released Akamai sustainability report.



Robert Blumofe

Written by

Robert Blumofe

March 08, 2022

Dr. Robert Blumofe is Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Akamai. As CTO, he guides Akamai’s technology strategy, works with Akamai’s largest customers, and convenes technology leaders within the company to catalyze innovation. Previously, he led Akamai’s Platform organization and Enterprise Division, where he was responsible for developing and operating the distributed system underlying all Akamai products and services, as well as creating products and services for major enterprises to secure and improve performance.