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Can AI Turn Your Data Center Green?

Do AI accelerators save energy? And is overall electricity consumption declining, or are data center simply squeezing more compute into the same power envelope?

By Sally Ward-Foxton from eetasia, May. 26, 2020 – 

It's easy to forget that AI requires a staggering amount of computing resources, and therefore power, as most of the heavy lifting is done in the cloud.

A study last year from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that training one large AI model for natural language processing (BERT) uses enough electricity to produce an equivalent amount of CO2 as a round-trip trans-Atlantic flight for one person. That's just one model, albeit a transformer network, trained one time; models are typically tuned and retrained many times during development. Add neural architecture search, an AutoML technique which uses AI to tune models, to a decent-size transformer and the total jumps to almost the same amount of CO2 as the lifetime emissions of five American cars.

AI accelerators promise to make AI processing much more computationally efficient. And as AI workloads increase, data centers are adopting these new specialized accelerators.

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