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VMware and the National Science Foundation Collaborate on the Next Generation of Sustainable Digital Infrastructure | VMware

Victor Firoiu

September 3, 2020

VMware and the National Science Foundation Collaborate on the Next Generation of Sustainable Digital Infrastructure

By Victor Firoiu, Senior Staff Academic Research Lead, VMware

With the Climate Decade upon us, cutting global emissions in half by 2030 depends on bold actions and a global capacity for innovation. We’re focused on both. Throughout our 20-year history, we’ve pioneered solutions to help build a low-carbon economy and become a carbon-neutral business. Because our virtualization solutions help our customers use less hardware more intelligently for their workloads, per our latest IDC study,1 from a cumulative standpoint, IT infrastructure avoidance due to VMware virtualization equates to power consumption savings of over 1.5 billion MWh and CO2 emissions avoidance of over 758 million metric tons from 2003 to 2019. An additional 455 million metric tons of CO2 emissions savings were achieved over the period due to avoided non-IT datacenter energy for a combined total avoidance of 1.2 billion metric tons.

Despite the increase in efficiency enabled by virtualization, the capacity of digital infrastructure has continued to grow exponentially - at around 25% annually in the last decade - with no sign of slowing2. The global power draw of all data centers is currently estimated at 1-1.5% of worldwide electricity production.3

Although there have been significant advances in efficiency, mainly through low-power hardware and software virtualization, researchers and practitioners believe that most potential gains with current technologies have been realized4. The recent evolution of digital infrastructure technologies brings the opportunity to make significant progress through a new generation of sustainability innovation. Several new research areas are particularly promising to improve software efficiency and thus reduce demand on digital infrastructure:

  • Software lifecycle tools and automation,
  • Full-stack visibility,
  • Application and data mobility and distribution,
  • IT/OT convergence, and
  • Renewable-power-aware scheduling and placement.

To ensure we continue to innovate in this critical area, we’re eager to announce a new research program in partnership with the US National Science Foundation (NSF): “The Next Generation of Sustainable Digital Infrastructure,5” which is part of a continuing collaboration between NSF and VMware. The program was developed by VMware Academic Program (VMAP) in collaboration with VMware Office of the CTO’s Sustainability group and NSF’s Division of Computer and Network Systems.

The goal of this program is to foster transformative research in fundamental and systematic approaches, resulting in dramatic increases in the environmental sustainability of digital infrastructure and leading to practical methodologies and tools. NSF and VMware have jointly issued a solicitation for proposals from academic research groups in the areas of:

  • Metrics, benchmarks and measurement methods to capture the wide variety of applications;
  • Infrastructure architectures and approaches to incorporate sustainability concerns across the full Development and Operations (DevOps) lifecycle; and
  • Methods to manage the aggregate Digital Infrastructure environment and workloads.

The goal is minimizing the IT and data center infrastructure required to support the world’s digital workloads thereby reducing energy use and carbon emissions.

Once the proposals are selected and funded at the end of this year, the VMware research and development team will have the opportunity to collaborate with academia.

Ultimately the results from the funded research projects will have significant business impacts in the form of infrastructure and operational cost savings and improved infrastructure productivity, transforming products and businesses to bring about a more sustainable world.

We believe this research will lead to new technologies and innovations that not only increase the sustainability of our global, digital society, but also mitigate climate impacts. And we’re pleased to announce that all of these findings will be available and dedicated to the public.

NSF and VMware will support multiple projects with total funding of up to $6,000,000 over three years. It is intended that NSF and VMware will co-fund each project. This initiative is part of our ongoing commitment to build a more sustainable world and continue to be a force for good through the collective impact of our employees, customers and partners.

To learn more about this initiative, you can contact me at:
1+ (650) 427-4542 or

1IDC, Sriram Subramanian, Brad Casemore, Enabling More Agile and Sustainable Business Through Carbon-Efficient Digital Transformations An IDC White Paper, Sponsored by VMware, August 2020, #US46663420

2 Masanet et al, “Recalibrating global data center energy-use estimates”,

3 Masanet et al, “Recalibrating global data center energy-use estimates”,

4 NSF Workshop on Sustainable Data Centers; p.3,